- Associated Press - Friday, August 25, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Gunmen stormed a Shiite mosque in the Afghan capital while worshippers were at Friday prayers, setting off an explosion that killed a security guard outside and pushing into the shrine, officials said. A cleric who was leading the service was also killed, according to initial reports.

The police were promptly deployed at the site in a northern Kabul neighborhood and encircled the mosque but were not advancing inside to prevent further casualties, police official Mohammed Jamil said.

More explosions and gunfire echoed from the site of the attack, which Jamil said was still underway. The mosque had been packed with worshippers for Friday prayers, the high point of the Muslim week, Jamil added.

Mir Hussain Nasiri, a member of Afghanistan’s Shiite clerical council, said the cleric who was performing the prayers was killed, but did not give his name. Nasiri said the gunmen have taken over the portion of the mosque with the separate prayer areas for men and women.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the assault.

There have been several attacks against Shiite Muslim mosques in Afghanistan in recent weeks. Last month, 32 people were killed when gunmen stormed a Shiite mosque in western Herat province. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack and vowed to carry out more attacks against Afghanistan’s minority Shiite Muslims, which the Sunni extremists consider to be heretics.

Meanwhile, in southern Kandahar province, Afghan security forces repulsed a Taliban attack on an outpost, according to provincial police chief’s spokesman, Zia Durrani. Four members of the security forces died in the exchange and another seven were wounded, he said.

Durrani said the attack occurred overnight and the Taliban sustained heavy casualties. There was no immediate comment from the Taliban.

Elsewhere, provincial deputy police chief Nisar Ahmad Abdul Rahimzai saids that Afghan security forces recaptured a district in eastern Paktia province from the insurgents.

The summer fighting season in Afghanistan has been brutal so far this year, with relentless Taliban attacks around the country as the insurgents battle to expand their footprint.


Associated Press Writer Mirwais Khan in Kandahar, Afghanistan, contributed to this report

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