Explosion Hits Religious Site–17 Dead, Even More Casualties

May 6, 2018 Updated: September 27, 2018

An explosion at a mosque used as a voter center in the eastern Afghan province of Khost on Sunday killed at least 17 people and 34 wounded, local officials said, in the latest attack on preparations for long-delayed parliamentary elections.

Basir Bina, spokesman for the provincial police, said people were gathered after afternoon prayers in the mosque, which was also being used as a voter registration center for parliamentary elections due in October, Reuters reported.

The explosion was caused by a bomb that had been placed in the mosque, Bina told CNN.

Talib Mangal, who is a spokesman for the provincial governor in Khost, told The Associated Press that there was one woman among those killed in the blast. “The blast happened while people were busy with prayers, meanwhile in other part of the mosque people had gathered to get their voter registration cards for the election,” he added.

He said the blast appeared to have been caused by explosives left in the mosque rather than by a suicide bomber.

Habib Shah Ansari, head of the health department in Khost, a mountainous region on the border with Pakistan, said 17 were confirmed dead from the blast with 34 injured.
 There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the explosion, which adds to a series of attacks on voter centers since the registration process began in April. The Taliban, which has warned people against taking part in the election process, issued a statement denying any involvement.

Medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres said it had donated emergency supplies to the Khost provincial hospital where many of the wounded were taken.

Last month, around 60 people were killed in a suicide attack on a voter center in the capital Kabul, which was claimed by the ISIS terrorist group and there have been a string of smaller incidents that have deterred many from going to the voter centers. ISIS is not known to have a presence in Khost, AP noted.

ISIS terrorists targeted a voter registration site in Kabul, killing 60 people and injuring 130 others, according to reports in April.

 Sunday’s blast came as fighting has spread across Afghanistan, with government officials saying that a district in the northern province of Badakhshan which was seized by Taliban fighters last week had been retaken.

However Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied the reports that Kohistan district had been retaken, saying in a statement that security forces had been driven back.

In a separate incident in the northern province of Faryab, seven people were killed when the car they were travelling in hit a roadside bomb early on Sunday morning, Mohammad Karim Yuresh, spokesman for Faryab police, said.

Several days ago, nine journalists were killed in twin blasts that hit Kabul, according to reports.

After the first bombing, journalists rushed to the scene. That’s when the next attacker detonated his bomb, killing the nine media workers.

An Agence France-Presse (AFP) photographer, a cameraman for the Afghan TOLO TV broadcaster, and several reporters for Radio Free Europe died, Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai told The Associated Press.

“This is a devastating blow, for the brave staff of our close-knit Kabul bureau and the entire agency,” AFP’s global news director, Michèle Léridon, told The Guardian. “We can only honor the strength, courage, and generosity of a photographer who covered often traumatic, horrific events with sensitivity and consummate professionalism.”

Radio Free Europe also confirmed that its journalists Abadullah Hananzai, Maharram Durrani, and Sabawoon Kakar were killed, according to The Guardian.

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Reuters contributed to this article.