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Pro-Taliban Cleric Among 18 Killed in Afghan Mosque Bombing

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A SUICIDE bomber blew himself up near a crowded mosque in Afghanistan’s Herat province on Friday, killing at least 18 worshipers, including a popular pro-Taliban cleric.

The explosion occurred near the Guzarga Mosque in the western province, Herat police spokesperson Shah Mahmood Rasuli told EFE.

The bombing killed 18 people, including Islamic scholar Maulana Mujibur Rahman Ansari and his brother Habibur Rahman, provincial governor’s spokesperson Sharafat Matawakel told EFE News.

Matawakel said 23 people were wounded in the bombing.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the news of the death of Ansari – the head cleric of the mosque.

“The Islamic Emirate expresses its deep sorrow for his martyrdom. The perpetrators behind the incident will be punished for their heinous act,” Mujahid tweeted.

The cleric was a staunch defender of the Taliban government and would often speak against those fighting the Islamist militia.

At a large gathering of scholars and Afghan elders in late June, Ansari had strongly condemned anti-Taliban forces, saying whoever is against the government should be “beheaded.”

Online images from the attack site show blood and bodies scattered in a large open area near the mosque while dozens of worshipers dressed in white offer prayers, many of them in tears.

No group immediately claimed the attack, the latest in a series of blasts targeting mosques during Friday prayers.

The Islamic State militant network has claimed some of these attacks.

Taliban Prime Minister Mullah Hassan Akhund recently claimed that his government had improved security in the war-torn country.

He was speaking at a gathering on Wednesday to celebrate the first anniversary of the withdrawal of foreign soldiers from Afghanistan

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