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Suicide bomber strikes at a center of Taliban power, kills 4

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bomber struck at a center of Taliban power Wednesday, setting off a blast at a government ministry in the Afghan capital of Kabul and killing at least four people.

The explosion went off in the afternoon as workers and visitors were praying inside a mosque of Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry, which is responsible for security and law enforcement in the country. At least 25 worshippers were injured, a Taliban official said.

The attack inside a fortified compound dealt a serious blow to the Taliban, who have been trying to project control and strength since they seized power in August 2021.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the extremist group Islamic State, the main Taliban rival, has carried out a series of attacks, including in mosques, as part of a long-running insurgency. Targets have included Taliban patrols and members of Afghanistan's Shiite minority.

Wednesday's attack took place around 1:30 p.m. at the Interior Ministry compound on a main road next to Kabul's international airport.

Abdul Nafi Takor, a ministry spokesman, said the blast went off during prayers. He said four worshippers were killed and 25 wounded.

The Emergency Hospital in Kabul said it began receiving patients at around 2 p.m. with injuries and burns. Some of those wounded "reported seeing a man detonate a device,” said the hospital's acting country director, Dejan Panic. “It was a suicide attack."

The mosque blast follows last week's suicide bombing at an education center in Kabul that killed as many as 52 people, according to a tally compiled by The Associated Press, more than twice the death toll acknowledged by Taliban officials.

Earlier this year, United Nations experts said the main military threat to the Taliban came from IS and guerrilla-style attacks by former Afghan government security personnel.

Their report said the presence of IS, the al-Qaida network and “many other terrorist groups and fighters on Afghan soil” was raising concerns in neighboring countries and the wider international community.

In 2020, the IS affiliate attacked a Kabul maternity hospital that killed 24 people, including newborn babies and mothers. In 2021, before the Taliban takeover, the group attacked a school, killing more than 90, most of them schoolgirls.

The Associated Press