An explosion outside a mosque in the western Afghan city of Herat on Friday killed at least 18 people, including a leading pro-Taliban cleric, in what authorities say authorities, it was an attack.
Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Nafi Takor told Reuters that “18 people have been killed and 23 injured.”
Herat police spokesman Mahmood Rasoli said Mujib Rahman Ansari, the pro-Taliban cleric, was among those killed, along with some of his guards and civilians as they approached the mosque for Friday prayers.
Al Jazeera Media Network, citing unnamed sources, said 28 people had been killed and 45 injured.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid tweeted “strong condolences” over Ansari’s death and said his attackers would be punished.
Mujib Rahman Ansari had spoken out strongly in defense of the Taliban at a large gathering of thousands of scholars and elders organized by the group in late June, condemning anyone who opposed his administration.
The Taliban say they have improved security in the country since they took power about a year ago, but there have been several explosions in recent months, some of them targeting crowded mosques during prayers.
The United Nations has expressed concern about the growing number of attacks and some explosions have been claimed by a local branch of the Islamic State.
Friday’s explosion was not immediately claimed.