The preacher, Samiullah Raihan, was a supporter of the Western-backed Afghan government that Taliban militants are trying to bring down. He was also a member of the National Ulema Council, Afghanistan’s top Muslim clerical body, and regularly appeared on TV.
According to Kabul police chief’s spokesman, Basir Mujahid, the bomb was concealed in the microphone used to deliver the sermon. The prayer leader, Maulvi Samiullah Rayan, was the intended target, the spokesman added.
The Kabul neighbourhood where the bombing took place is dominated by ethnic Pashtuns, most of whom are Sunni Muslims and who make up the backbone of the Taliban movement. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but the Taliban and ISIS fighters regularly stage attacks in the capital.
The explosion hit at a time when dozens of men had gathered for prayers. The death toll could rise, said a second official.
In a statement after the blast, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the UAE condemned the “criminal acts” and “rejects all forms of violence and terrorism aimed at destabilising Afghanistan’s security and stability.”
After a separate incident, US Army spokesman Lt Ubon Mendie confirmed that five Romanian NATO soldiers were injured in southern Kandahar late on Friday but offered no details. Kandahar was the former heartland of the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan until their ouster in December 2001 by US-led coalition forces.
Meanwhile, a car bombing wounded 12 people late on Thursday also in the southern city of Kandahar. Provincial council member Yousaf Younasi said the bombing targeted insurgents from neighbouring Pakistan’s secessionist Baluchistan Liberation Army.
It was the second attack in recent years to target the group in Kandahar’s upscale Aino Mina residential area, he said. Last year, a suicide bomber blew himself up there, killing five Baluch separatists, including the mastermind behind the attack last November on the Chinese Consulate in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi that killed four people – two police officials and two civilians.
Pakistan has struggled with the years-long insurgency in Baluchistan where the separatists demand a greater share of the region’s wealth and autonomy from Islamabad. The separatist group also claimed responsibility for an attack earlier this month on a luxury hotel in the Pakistani port city of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea. Most of the residents in the hotel were Chinese nationals involved in the development of the port.
Kandahar’s provincial police chief, Tadin Khan, said there was no evidence that Baluch insurgents were the target of the explosion, which he said also wounded four children.