An explosion at a Kunduz Mosque in Northern Afghanistan went off Friday morning, with Taliban officials confirming at least 100 Shiite worshippers killed or wounded. The blast was caused by a suicide bombing, though no official group has claimed responsibility.
Video of the horrifying scene that interrupted Friday prayers was shared on social media, depicting bloodied and covered bodies lying scattered around the Gozar-e-Sayed Abad Mosque. According to Reuters, a local news agency called Bakhtar that is run by the state’s Ministry of Information, reported that 46 people were confirmed dead, with an additional 143 wounded.
Many suspect that Islamic State militants such as ISIS may be responsible for the blast, as the group holds a deep history of resentment towards Afghanistan’s Shia Muslim minority population. Though heavily targeted by Islamic State terrorism, Shia Muslims only make up approximately 6% of the Kunduz province’s population of roughly one million people.
Dost Mohammad Obaida, deputy police chief for the Kunduz province, said that an investigation is underway after “the “majority of [today’s victims at the Kunduz mosque] have been killed.”
“I assure our Shiite brothers that the Taliban are prepared to ensure their safety,” Dost Mohammad Obaida declared.
According to AP News, the Friday noon prayer is the highlight of the religious week in Islam, where mosques are usually at their most crowded. Ali Reza, an eyewitness at the Gozar-e-Sayed Abad Mosque, told AP that there were many casualties.
“This afternoon, an explosion took place in a mosque of our Shiite compatriots, as a result of which a number of our compatriots were martyred and wounded,” announced Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Muhajid.
Matullah Rohani, another Taliban official in Kunduz, confirmed the death toll of dozens to The New York Times, adding that roughly 100 people were injured. Local security officers said that roughly 300 people were attending Friday prayers.
An unnamed hospital worker for Doctors Without Borders confirmed that they have received over 90 wounded being treated and over 15 dead bodies. “The number will change,” they said. “We are still receiving more people.”
The blast “is part of a disturbing pattern of violence” from a group “apparently targeting a religious institution,” the United Nations’ mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) announced. “Initial information indicates more than 100 people killed and injured in a suicide blast inside the mosque.”
Zalmai Alokzai, a local businessman in the area, told The Guardian that he ran to the hospital to offer blood donations and saw that, “ambulances were going back to the incident scene to carry the dead.”
“[People in Kunduz] said the scenes were horrifying with panic,” said Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra. “They were struggling to deal with the human remains scattered throughout the back yard of the mosque. They expect the death toll to further climb in further hours because they say many people who were injured are in critical condition.”
Taliban security forces have arrived on the scene, CNN reported, as tensions between the Islamic State and the Taliban grows more deadly.
The Kunduz Mosque blast comes just days after another mosque bombing in the capital, Kabul, which killed at least seven people. Targeting the Eidgah Mosque, where CNN reported that a funeral service was being held for Muhajid’s late mother, ISIS fighters later claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Sunni extremist group also claimed responsibility for the Kabul airport bombing in August, which killed and injured around 170 civilians attempting to flee the country.
The Taliban have conducted several operations in the past few days to combat ISIS, according to Taliban police chief Maulvi Abdul Qadir Haqqani, but Friday’s Kunduz mosque bombing was their largest hit yet.