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Suicide bombers kill nearly 50 at a Shiite mosque in Afghanistan

People gather at the scene after a bomb blast hits a Shiite mosque in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province on Friday.
Murteza Khaliqi
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
People gather at the scene after a bomb blast hits a Shiite mosque in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province on Friday.

Updated October 15, 2021 at 11:44 AM ET

A group of suicide bombers attacked a Shiite mosque in southern Afghanistan, triggering explosions that killed dozens of people during crowded Friday prayers.

According to The Associated Press, Hafiz Sayeed, the Taliban's chief for Kandahar's department of culture and information, said 47 people had been killed and at least 70 wounded in the attack.

However, officials have been giving slightly different casualty figures throughout the day.

The attack came only a week after a similar blast killed dozens of Shiite worshippers in the country's north.

Friday's explosion occurred at the Fatimiya mosque in central Kandahar, a Taliban spokesman told the AP. Local officials described it as a Shiite mosque. The cause of the blast isn't yet clear, and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

A witness, Murtaza, who goes by one name as many people in Afghanistan do, told the AP by phone that four suicide bombers entered the mosque — two detonating explosives at a security gate to clear the way for the other two to enter the compound, where prayers were ongoing. He said that about 500 people may have been in attendance.

The attack appears to bear the hallmarks of last week's suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque in northern Kunduz province that killed at least 45 people and wounded dozens more — timed for maximum casualties during Friday prayers that typically attract the largest number of worshippers.

The earlier attack was claimed by the Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K, which views Shiite Muslims as apostates and opposes the Taliban regime. While the Taliban have pledged to restore order in Afghanistan after decades of war, since they seized full control of the country in August, the ISIS affiliate has increased attacks in the country.

A spokesman for the Taliban interior ministry, Qari Saeed Khosti, told Reuters that authorities were investigating. Taliban special forces also arrived to secure the site, the news agency said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman
Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.