KABUL: A suicide bomb attack on worshippers at a Shia mosque in the Afghan city of Kunduz killed at least 55 people on Friday, in the bloodiest assault since US forces left the country.
Scores more victims from the minority community were wounded in the blast, which has not been claimed but appears designed to further destabilise Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban takeover.
The militant Islamic State (IS) group, bitter rivals of the Taliban, has repeatedly targeted Shias in Afghanistan to stir up sectarian violence.
A medical source at the Kunduz Provincial Hospital said that 35 dead and more than 55 wounded had been taken there, while Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital said 20 were dead and scores more wounded.
Matiullah Rohani, director of culture and information in Kunduz for Afghanistan’s new Taliban government, confirmed to AFP that the deadly incident was a suicide attack and that at least 46 people had died and 143 were wounded.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid had earlier said “an explosion took place in a mosque of our Shia compatriots” in Kunduz. Bilal Karimi, a Taliban security official, added that targeting civilians was the “ultimate low”. He said that the Islamic Emirate would not allow the criminals to go unpunished.
Residents of Kunduz, the capital of a province of the same name, told AFP the blast hit a Shia mosque during Friday prayers.
Zalmai Alokzai, a local businessman who rushed to Kunduz Provincial Hospital to check whether doctors needed blood donations, described horrific scenes.
“Ambulances were going back to the incident scene to carry the dead,” he said.
An international aid worker at the MSF hospital in the city told AFP there were fears the death toll could rise even further.
“Hundreds of people are gathered at the main gate of the hospital and crying for their relatives but armed Taliban guys are trying to prevent gatherings in case another explosion is planned,” he said.