Mosque Explosion Kills 33 as Deadly Week in Afghanistan Continues

KABUL, Afghanistan — An explosion at a Sufi mosque in northern Afghanistan on Friday killed more than 30 people and injured dozens more, said a Taliban official, who continued a bloody week in Afghanistan reminiscent of the last 20 years of war.

The blast, at the Khanaqa-e-Malawi Sikandar mosque in Kunduz province near the border with Tajikistan, was the fourth major attack in Afghanistan in four days and fueled fears that the country may face a violent spring when warmer again historically allowed militants to conduct offensives.

No group immediately claimed responsibility. Details of the attack remained unclear Friday afternoon, but videos showed a concrete wall reduced to rubble, shattered glass on the floor and carpets covered in blood.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s chief spokesman, said 33 people had been killed, including children, and 43 injured. Local residents feared the death toll would rise.

“The situation was really terrible and there were bodies everywhere,” said Hakim, who lives nearby and rushed to the mosque after hearing an explosion. Fearing retaliation, he asked to be identified only by his first name.

The explosion on Friday added to a particularly bloody week in Afghanistan, where attacks of this kind had become relatively rare after the Taliban took control of the country last August and all US troops left, ending the war.

On Tuesday, several explosions outside an education center and public secondary school in the capital Kabul killed at least six people and injured 11, most of them teenage students, local officials said. The attacks targeted a part of the city that is home to a large Hazara community, an ethnic minority that is predominantly Shia. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Two days later, another explosion ripped through a Shia mosque in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, killing at least 10 people and injuring more than two dozen, local officials said. At about the same time, an explosion targeted a minibus in Kunduz, about 100 miles to the east, killing at least four people and injuring 18, a police spokesman said.

The Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan, known as Islamic State of Khorasan and declaring Shiites to be heretical, has claimed responsibility for both explosions, according to SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks extremist organizations.

Since the Taliban took power, the group has maintained its commitment to provide security after two decades of war. But the string of attacks this week fueled fears that the inter-factional violence is far from over in Afghanistan as the insurgents who have become rulers face a revived threat from the Islamic State and, perhaps, other militants. cells.

The Islamic State does not regard Sufis who practice a mystical form of Islam as Muslims and has targeted the Sufis in recent years.

Christina Goldbaum reported from Kabul, and Najim Rahim from New York.

SOURCE – www.nytimes.com

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