A suicide bomb attack on worshippers at a mosque in the Afghan city of Kunduz killed at least 50 people Friday, in the bloodiest assault since US forces left the country.
Scores more victims from the minority community were wounded in the blast, which has not been claimed but appears designed to further destabilise Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban takeover.
The Islamic State group, bitter rivals of Taliban, has repeatedly targeted people.
Matiullah Rohani, director of culture and information in Kunduz for Afghanistan’s new Taliban government, confirmed to AFP that the deadly incident was a suicide attack.
A medical source at the Kunduz Provincial Hospital said that 35 dead and more than 50 wounded had been taken there, while a worker at a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital reported 15 dead and scores more wounded.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid had earlier said an unknown number of people had been killed and injured when “an explosion took place in a mosque of our Shiite compatriots” in Kunduz.
Residents of Kunduz, the capital of a province of the same name, told AFP the blast hit a mosque during Friday prayers, the most important of the week for Muslims.
Zalmai Alokzai, a local businessman who rushed to Kunduz Provincial Hospital to check whether doctors needed blood donations, described horrific scenes.
“Ambulances were going back to the incident scene to carry the dead,” he said.
An international aid worker at the MSF hospital in the city told AFP there were fears the death toll could rise even further.
“Hundreds of people are gathered at the main gate of the hospital and crying for their relatives but armed Taliban guys are trying to prevent gatherings in case another explosion is planned,” he said.
Graphic images shared on social media, which could not immediately be verified, showed several bloodied bodies lying on the floor. Pictures showed plumes of smoke rising into the air over Kunduz.
Another video showed men shepherding people, including women and children, away from the scene. Frightened crowds thronged the streets.
Aminullah, an eyewitness whose brother was at the mosque, told AFP: “After I heard the explosion, I called my brother but he did not pick up.
“I walked towards the mosque and found my brother wounded and faint. We immediately took him to the MSF hospital.”
A female teacher in Kunduz told AFP the blast happened near her house, and several of her neighbours were killed. “It was a very terrifying incident,” she said.
“Many of our neighbours have been killed and wounded. A 16-year-old neighbour was killed. They couldn’t find half of his body. Another neighbour who was 24 was killed as well.”
Kunduz’s location makes it a key transit point for economic and trade exchanges with Tajikistan.
It was the scene of fierce battles as the Taliban fought their way back into power this year.