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Blast Near Mosque In Western Afghanistan Kills Pro-Taliban Cleric, Several Other Worshippers

A blast outside a mosque in the western Afghan city of Herat has killed a high-profile pro-Taliban cleric and more than 20 others attending Friday Prayers.

"Mujib-al-Rahman Ansari, some of his guards, and civilians have been killed on their way to the mosque," Herat police spokesperson Mahmood Rasooli said on September 2.

Ansari’s death was confirmed by chief Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

Earlier in the day, Ansari had attended a meeting with officials, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the acting deputy prime minister of the Taliban-led government, who had been visiting Herat, Rasooli told RFE/RL.

Unconfirmed reports said at least 18 people, including some of Ansari's family members, were killed in the blast, while another 21 were wounded.

Ansari, a Sunni cleric and the imam of the Guzargah mosque, had spoken strongly in defense of the Taliban at a large gathering of thousands of scholars and elders in late June, condemning anyone who stood against the hardline group’s administration.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast.

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, a regional affiliate of the Islamic State terrorist group has attacked several mosques in deadly suicide blasts during packed Friday Prayers, with a focus on targeting Shi’ite Muslims.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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