A suicide bomber attacked a mosque in Afghanistan's northeastern Kunduz province, killing scores of worshippers in the country's third attack this week on a religious institution.
At least 55 people have been killed and 140 others wounded in a suicide attack that targeted a mosque in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz.
The explosion occurred during the weekly Friday prayer service at the Gozar-e-Sayed Abad Mosque when members of the Shia religious minority typically come in large numbers for worship.
Daesh-K claimed responsibility for the attack, which appeared designed to further destabilise Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban takeover.
One witness, Rahmatullah, said 300 to 400 worshippers were inside in the mosque.
Taliban chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Taliban special forces had arrived at the scene and were investigating the incident.
Minority group targeted
Area resident Hussaindad Rezayee said he rushed to the mosque when he heard the explosion, just as prayers started. “I came to look for my relatives, the mosque was full," he said.
Witness Ali Reza said he was praying at the time of the explosion and reported seeing many casualties.
The worshippers targeted were Hazaras, who have long suffered from double discrimination as an ethnic minority and as followers of Shia Islam in a majority Sunni country.
Daesh has been behind a rise in attacks, including against the Taliban, since the departure of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan at the end of August.
Daesh and the Taliban, who seized control of the country with the exit of the foreign troops, are strategic rivals. Daesh militants have targeted Taliban positions and attempted to recruit members from their ranks.
In the past, the Taliban managed to contain the Daesh threat in tandem with US and Afghan airstrikes. Without these, it remains unclear whether the Taliban can suppress what appears to be a growing Daesh footprint.
Graphic images shared on social media, and which could not immediately be verified, showed several bloodied bodies lying on the floor. Pictures showed plumes of smoke rising into the air over Kunduz.
Another video showed men shepherding people, including women and children, away from the scene.
An employee of an international aid group was among the injured, a source said.
The United Nations mission in Afghanistan condemned the attack as “part of a disturbing pattern of violence” targeting religious institutions.
UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi told reporters in Geneva the blast was "the symptom that the implosion (of Afghanistan) may also translate into renewed insecurity."
This, he said, means "more people killed, more terrorist attacks, more instability. And that is also something that we should all be worried about".