June 12, 2020 / 9:21 AM / a month ago

Four killed, eight wounded in blast at Kabul mosque during Friday prayers

Men inspect the site of a blast inside a mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan June 12, 2020.REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

KABUL (Reuters) - A blast in a Kabul mosque during Friday prayers killed at least four people and wounded eight, Afghanistan’s interior ministry said on Friday, at a time when the country is attempting to move towards peace talks to end 18 years of war.

“Explosives placed inside the Sher Shah Suri Mosque exploded during Friday prayers,” said a Ministry of Interior statement, adding that the West Kabul mosque’s mullah was among the dead.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast and the insurgent Taliban group condemned the attack. “Such systematic killings have begun taking place as the Afghan people have started taking steps towards peace,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said in a statement.

The United States is attempting to broker peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban to end almost two decades of war. After months of delay since the United States signed a troop withdrawal agreement with the Taliban, peace negotiations are expected to start in coming weeks.

Islamic State also has a presence in Afghanistan and has claimed large-scale attacks in Kabul in recent months.

Friday’s blast was also condemned by the Afghan president’s office, human rights officials, the United States and NATO.

Kabul resident Matin Momen, who was in the mosque compound during the attack, said security forces should examine mosques for explosives. They have been targets for blasts in recent months, especially on Fridays when many gather for prayers.

“We are facing a major crisis,” he told Reuters.

Reporting by Orooj Hakimi and Hameed Farzad; Additional reporting by Sayed Hassib; Writing by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Alex Richardson and Frances Kerry

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