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The Afghan capital Kabul was shaken by a blast which ripped through a mosque packed with worshippers on Wednesday. The police has reported 21 people dead and 33 wounded in the incident.

Afghanistan has witnessed a decline in the number of bombing incidents since the Taliban returned to power in August last year, but, in recent past several attacks have rocked the country, mostly targeted towards minority groups. Jihadist Islamic State group has claimed responsibility of some of these attacks.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blast at Kabul's Sediqia Mosque, which has an adjoining madrassa.

Masiullah, a neighbourhood resident expressed grief over the death of his relative in the incident. “He was my cousin; may God forgive him… One year had passed from his marriage, he was 27 years old and his name was Fardin... he was a good person," he said.

Kabul police spokesman Khalid Zadran said 21 people were killed and 33 wounded.

Emergency, the Italian non-governmental organisation, which operates a hospital in Kabul, on Wednesday said, it had received 27 victims, including three fatalities.

The hospital reported that most of the patients were suffering "shell and burn injuries", via email.

In a later tweet, the hospital said five children were among those it treated, including a seven-year-old.

Local hospitals have said that they were not permitted to provide details of casualties they had treated.

Taliban attempts to downplay the incident

Taliban officials have always insisted that they have full control of security in the country, but frequently deny or downplay incidents reported on the social media.

Taliban senior member Anas Haqqani (L) looks on as he attends a gathering held to mark the first anniversary of their return to power in Afghanistan in Kabul on August 15, 2022.
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Taliban senior member Anas Haqqani (L) looks on as he attends a gathering held to mark the first anniversary of their return to power in Afghanistan in Kabul on August 15, 2022. (AFP)

On Thursday, armed Taliban fighters prevented journalists from reaching the mosque site. Taliban has been preventing local and foreign media from covering the aftermath of attacks.

The blast that shook Kabul on Wednesday comes nearly a week after a suicide bomber killed top Taliban cleric Rahimullah Haqqani, along with his brother, at his madrassa in Kabul.

Haqqani was known for angry speeches against IS, which later claimed the attack. The group has primarily targeted minority communities such as Shiites, Sufis and Sikhs.

Even though Taliban claims that they have defeated IS, but experts state that the group remains a key security challenge for the hardline Islamists.

Both, IS and Taliban are hard-line Sunni Islamist groups, but the two are bitter rivals and greatly diverge on ideological grounds.

The blast came as senior Taliban leaders on Thursday led a major gathering of more than 2,000 religious clerics and elders in the southern city of Kandahar, the movement's de facto power base.

In a statement sent to the media, a Taliban spokesman said "important decisions" would be taken at the conference but provided no other details.

This Monday marked Taliban's first anniversary of their return to power. It was a turbulent year that saw women's rights crushed and a humanitarian crisis worsen.

After coming to power, Taliban had promised a mellow version of the harsh Islamist rule that characterised their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001, but over time many restrictions have gradually been imposed.

Afghanistan is struggling on economic front too as the overseas assets of the state have been frozen by Washington and aid curtailed in order to keep funds out of the Taliban's hands.

Moreover, in the geo-political dimension, no country has officially recognised the new government.

With inputs from AFP.

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