Pro-Taliban cleric among 18 dead in Afghanistan mosque blast

Al Jazeera Media Network, citing unnamed sources, said 28 people had been killed and 45 injured. Mujib Rahman Ansari - the pro-Taliban cleric - was among the dead.

 Afghan men pray in a mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 17, 2021.  (photo credit: WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)
Afghan men pray in a mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 17, 2021.
(photo credit: WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)

A blast outside a mosque in the city of Herat in western Afghanistan on Friday killed at least 18 people including a high-profile pro-Taliban cleric in what authorities said was an attack.

"18 have been killed and 23 have been injured," a spokesman for the interior ministry Abdul Nafi Takor told Reuters.

Herat's police spokesman Mahmood Rasoli said that Mujib Rahman Ansari - the pro-Taliban cleric - was among the dead along with some of his guards and civilians as they approached the mosque for Friday prayers.

Al Jazeera Media Network, citing unnamed sources, said 28 people had been killed and 45 injured.

The Taliban's spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid, in a Tweet expressed "strong condolences" over Ansari's death and said his attackers would be punished.

 Head of the Taliban delegation Abdul Salam Hanafi takes part in international talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, Russia, October 20, 2021.  (credit: ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/POOL VIA REUTERS) Head of the Taliban delegation Abdul Salam Hanafi takes part in international talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, Russia, October 20, 2021. (credit: ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/POOL VIA REUTERS)

Mujib Rahman Ansari had spoken strongly in defense of the Taliban at a large gathering of thousands of scholars and elders organized by the group in late June, condemning anyone who stood against their administration.

Trouble in Afghanistan: Explosions, ISIS and the Taliban

The Taliban say they have improved security in the country since taking power around a year ago, but there have been several blasts in recent months, some of them targeting busy mosques during prayers. The United Nations has raised concerns about the growing number of attacks and some blasts have been claimed by a local branch of the Islamic State.

The was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday's explosion.