Civilians killed in deadliest Kabul attack since US withdrawal

Show caption Taliban stand guard near the scene of the blast in Kabul. Photograph: EPA Afghanistan Civilians killed in deadliest Kabul attack since US withdrawal Islamic State suspected of carrying out bombing outside mosque in Afghan capital Associated Press in Kabul Sun 3 Oct 2021 17.46 BST Share on Facebook

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At least five civilians have been killed in a bomb blast at the entrance to a Kabul mosque on Sunday, a Taliban official said, the deadliest attack in the Afghan capital since US forces left at the end of August.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suspicion fell on Islamic State extremists, who have stepped up attacks on the Taliban in recent weeks, particularly in the IS stronghold in eastern Afghanistan.

It is believed that a roadside bomb went off at the gate of the sprawling Eidgah mosque in Kabul when a memorial service was being held for the mother of the Taliban’s chief spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid. Five people were killed, said Qari Saeed Khosti, a spokesman for the interior ministry

Three suspects were arrested, said Bilal Karimi, another Taliban spokesman. Taliban fighters were not harmed in the attack, he said.

An Italian-funded emergency hospital in Kabul tweeted that it had received four people wounded in the blast.

The area around the mosque was cordoned off by the Taliban, who maintained a heavy security presence. Later in the afternoon the site was cleaned. Afterwards the only signs of the blast was slight damage to the ornamental arch by the entrance gate.

The explosion underlined the growing challenges facing the Taliban just weeks after they took control of Afghanistan in a blitz campaign, culminating in their takeover of Kabul on 15 August.

During their 20-year insurgency, the Taliban frequently carried out bombing and shooting attacks, but they are now faced with trying to contain rival militants who are using the same methods. The growing security challenges come at a time of economic meltdown, as the Taliban struggle to run the country without the massive foreign aid given to the US-backed government that they toppled.

IS militants have stepped up attacks against the Taliban since their mid-August takeover, signalling a widening conflict between them. IS maintains a strong presence in the eastern province of Nangarhar, where it has claimed responsibility for several killings in the provincial capital of Jalalabad.

In late August an IS suicide bomber targeted American evacuation efforts at Kabul’s international airport. The blast killed 169 Afghans and 13 US service members, and was one of the deadliest attacks in the country in years.

Attacks in Kabul have so far been rare, but in recent weeks IS has shown signs it is expanding its footprint beyond the east and closer toward the capital. On Friday Taliban fighters raided an IS hideout just north of Kabul in Parwan province. The raid came after an IS roadside bomb wounded four Taliban fighters in the area.