At least three people were killed and 15 wounded on Friday after a bomb blast at a mosque in Afghanistan’s restive Nangarhar Province, said a Taliban spokesperson.
The blast – for which no group has yet claimed responsibility – underscores one of the many challenges facing the new Taliban regime in Afghanistan, with the UN warning the country is also on the brink of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
It happened during Friday prayers in the Spin Ghar district of the eastern province, a hotbed of Islamic State group activity since the Taliban seized power in the country in August.
“I can confirm a blast during Friday prayers inside a mosque in Spin Ghar district. There are casualties and fatalities,” a Taliban official was quoted as saying by news agency AFP.
Walli Mohammed, a local elder and activist, said that the bomb appeared to have been hidden in a loudspeaker near the imam’s rostrum.
When the speaker was switched on to sound the azaan – the call to begin the prayer ritual – the device detonated, he said.
The Afghan branch of the Islamic State group has been waging a campaign of violence in the Nangarhar Province, since the Taliban’s return to power.
Although both IS and the Taliban are hardline Sunni Islamist militant groups, they differ on the issues of religion and strategy, which has led to fierce fighting between the two.
The IS, which first emerged in Nangarhar in 2015, has claimed responsibility for a series of bloody attacks in Afghanistan, including one at Kabul airport as the US and other countries rushed to evacuate their citizens and Afghan allies from the country.
Among the scores killed were 13 US soldiers, the worst single-day loss for the Pentagon in Afghanistan since 2011.
One of the latest, in early November, saw IS fighters’ raid the Kabul National Military Hospital, killing at least 19 people and injuring more than 50.
More than 120 people were killed in IS attacks earlier this year on two mosques popular with the ethnic minority Hazara community.
The Taliban said it has started a counterinsurgency campaign, vowing to put down the threat from IS.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Taliban intelligence service told reporters in Kabul that the agency has arrested close to 600 IS members, including key figures and financial supporters. The spokesman, Khalil Hamraz, said at least 33 IS members have been killed in gun battles with Taliban security forces.