A powerful blast hit a mosque in western Kabul during prayers, killing at least 10 and wounding 20, the latest in a spate of attacks on Afghan places of worship and civilian targets during the holy month of Ramadan.
Besmullah Habib, deputy spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry, said the explosion went off on Friday at the Khalifa Aga Gul Jan Mosque in western Kabul at about 2pm local time (10:00 GMT).
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Hundreds of worshippers had gathered for prayers on the last Friday of Ramadan and the mosque was packed.
Wahid, an Afghan in his 30s, said he was home when he heard about the blast and rushed to the mosque right away, knowing his brother was there. He recalled the scene of mayhem, the screams and shouts for help. He helped carry the wounded to ambulances.
“Everyone was crying and covered in blood,” Wahid said. “I was told my brother had been hurt.”
Ambulances raced to the site, driving up to the end of a narrow street in an eastern neighbourhood of Kabul to reach the mosque.
‘Lost my beloved ones’
Sayed Fazil Agha, head of the mosque, said someone believed to be a suicide bomber joined in the ceremony and detonated explosives.
“Black smoke rose and spread everywhere, dead bodies were everywhere,” he said, adding his nephews were among the dead. “I myself survived but lost my beloved ones.”
No group immediately claimed responsibility.
One man, who was inside the mosque at the time, said a huge blast tore through the building, burning his feet and hands. Mohammad Sabir, a resident in the area, said he saw people being loaded into ambulances.
“The blast was very loud, I thought my eardrums were cracked,” he said.
Emergency Hospital in downtown Kabul said it was treating 21 patients and two were dead on arrival.
A worker at another hospital said it received 49 wounded victims and five bodies. Ten of the patients were in critical condition with about 20 admitted to the burns unit.
A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, released a statement condemning the blast and saying the perpetrators would be found and punished.
Dozens of Afghan civilians have been killed in recent weeks in blasts, some of which have been claimed by the ISIL (ISIS) armed group.
Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers say they have secured the country since taking power last August and largely eliminated the ISIL’s local offshoot, but international officials and analysts say the risk of a resurgence in attacks remains.
Many of the assaults have targeted the Shia religious minority. Sunni mosques have also been attacked.
Bombs exploded on two passenger vans carrying Shia Muslims in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Thursday, killing at least nine people. Last Friday, a blast tore through a Sunni mosque during Friday prayers in the city of Kunduz, killing 33 people.
The latest attack came on Friday, the Islamic holy day – the last in the month of Ramadan, during which most Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset and before the religious holiday of Eid next week.