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Suicide bomber hits crowded Kabul mosque: officials

KABUL: A suicide bomber struck a crowded mosque in Kabul late Thursday, officials said, in the latest militant attack to rattle the Afghan capital during the holy month of Ramadan.

The bomber blew himself up in the kitchen of Al Zahra mosque after police prevented him from entering the prayer hall packed with worshippers, authorities said, with witnesses also reporting gunfire in the area.

“Terrorist attack on Al Zahra mosque in west of Kabul. Special forces have been sent to the area,” ministry spokesman Najib Danish said, without revealing if there were any casualties.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the assault, but minority Shiite areas have been frequently targeted by Islamic State militants in the past.

The rise of the Islamic State group has raised the specter of sectarian discord in Afghanistan, something that the Sunni-majority country has largely been spared despite decades of war.

Islamic State fighters this week captured Tora Bora, a mountain cave complex in eastern Afghanistan that was once the hideout of Osama bin Laden, despite pressure on the militants from US-led forces.

Read More: At least 15 dead as explosions rock funeral in tense Kabul

General John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, has pledged to defeat the local IS affiliate this year.

In April the US military dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb ever used on an IS stronghold in eastern Afghanistan, killing dozens of militants, but fighting has continued unabated in the area.

Kabul has been on edge since a massive truck bomb on May 31 killed more than 150 people and wounded hundreds in the city’s fortified diplomatic quarter, the deadliest attack in the Afghan capital since 2001.

Just days later protesters incensed by the bombing clashed with police, prompting authorities to respond with live rounds, which left at least four people dead.

Separately, suicide bombers tore through a row of mourners at the funeral for one of the protesters, killing at least seven more people.

The carnage during the holy fasting month of Ramadan has left the Afghan capital shaken, with protesters who have set up a sit-in camp close to the bombing site demanding the resignation of President Ashraf Ghani’s government.

Last year Afghanistan witnessed a wave of attacks claimed by IS.

At least 14 people were killed in October in a powerful blast at a mosque in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, hours after gunmen targeted worshippers in a shrine in Kabul and killed 18 people.

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