Afghanistan explosion: Influential cleric among 18 killed in blast at Herat mosque

·1-min read
Afghan people run near the site of an explosion in Herat province in Afghanistan (AP)
Afghan people run near the site of an explosion in Herat province in Afghanistan (AP)

At least 18 people, including an influential cleric, were killed as an explosion tore through a crowded mosque during Friday prayers in western Afghanistan's Herat province.

Officials transported 18 bodies and 21 wounded people from Guzargah Mosque to a local hospital in the province.

Images and videos from the blast scenes showed blood-stained bodies scattered around the compound of the mosque, with the injured pleading for help.

Among those killed was Mujib-ul Rahman Ansari, a cleric known for his criticism of western powers in Afghanistan who had previously called for the decapitation of those committing "the smallest act" against the Taliban regime.

His death was confirmed by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, who called him a “martyr”.

“The country’s strong and courageous religious scholar was martyred in a brutal attack,” he wrote on Twitter, vowing to “punish the perpetrators”.

Ansari is the second prominent pro-Taliban cleric to be killed in an explosion in less than a month.

Last month, top cleric Rahimullah Haqqani was killed in a suicide attack at his madrassa in Kabul. On 17 August, at least 21 people were killed in an explosion in a packed mosque in the capital.

There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday’s blast, although the previous mosque attacks have been claimed by Isis.

The Islamist group has primarily targeted minority communities in Afghanistan such as the Shias, and Sikhs.