KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A bomb exploded during weekly prayers Friday at a mosque in an eastern part of Kabul, killing two people, including the prayer leader, and wounding 16, officials said.
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.
No militant group immediately claimed responsibility but both the Taliban and the Islamic State group regularly stage attacks in the country’s capital.
The Kabul neighborhood 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.
U.S. 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 U.S.-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 neighboring Pakistan’s secessionist Baluchistan Liberation Army.
It was the second attack in recent years to target the group in Kandahar’s posh 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.
Associated Press writer Kathy Gannon in Islamabad contributed to this report.