Blast at Afghan Mosque Kills 37 as Shiites Are Targeted Again

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A blast in a mosque in southern Afghanistan killed 37 people and wounded at least 70 others during Friday Prayer, officials said, the second such attack on a Shiite place of worship on successive Fridays in the country.

The attack, which eyewitnesses said involved multiple blasts, took place in Kandahar city — considered the heart of the re-established Taliban government. And though no group has yet claimed responsibility for the explosions, the Islamic State said it was behind a similar strike on a Shiite mosque in Kunduz Province, in the northern part of the country, on Oct. 8 that killed more than 40 people.

Shams Samim, a Taliban official in charge of the culture and information media section in Kandahar, said that the latest attack killed 37 people and injured at least 70.

Witnesses described a bloody scene at the mosque.

“We have no idea if it was a suicide bomber or an I.E.D. — but it was powerful, human flesh and blood were seen all around the mosque,” said Mohammad Ali, a worshiper who was at the mosque on Friday, referring to an improvised explosive device.

Mr. Ali said the Taliban arrived shortly after the attack and cordoned off the area. The insurgents turned rulers have highlighted their ability to provide security to Afghan citizens after the collapse of the Western-backed government in August.

But that pledge has become increasingly difficult to uphold as Taliban fighters are now responsible for securing major urban centers like Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city, and the country’s capital, Kabul.

The Islamic State Khorasan, also known as ISIS-K, has long had a presence in Afghanistan’s east but has rarely attacked in the country’s south.

If the attack was indeed carried out by the terrorist group, it would represent a significant display of the Islamic State’s newly established reach as it launches its reinvigorated campaign of violence against the people of Afghanistan.

ISIS-K is a Sunni extremist group that has long targeted Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan, focusing heavily on the Hazara ethnic minority, much like it did in last week’s attack in Kunduz.

Taimoor Shah reported from Kandahar, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kabul.

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