Over a dozen killed in mosque blast
At least 14 people were killed and 33 others injured after an explosion at a mosque in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, the latest in a wave of deadly attacks in the country in recent weeks.
The mosque, in the city of Khost, was also being used as a voter registration center, ahead of parliamentary elections in October.
The blast was caused by a bomb placed in the mosque, rather than by a suicide bomber, Khost’s Chief of Police Basir Bina told CNN.
The Taliban denied involvement in the blast, and so far no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which happened at 2:20pm local time.
It is the latest in a wave of deadly attacks to hit the war-torn country in recent weeks. On Monday, nine journalists were killed in the capital Kabul when a bomber disguised as a TV cameraman detonated a second bomb at the site of an earlier explosion.
Among the dead was Agence France Presse photographer Shah Marai, a father of six and chief photographer in the agency’s bureau there. He had covering the Afghan conflict for over 15 years.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.
Also killed in a separate attack on the same day was 29-year-old BBC reporter Ahmad Shah who was shot by unknown gunmen, also in Khost province.
An especially violent day
That day, a suicide bomber in Kandahar Province, southern Afghanistan, also killed 11 students at a local religious school. So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
In addition, 22-year-old US soldier, Gabriel Conde, was also killed that day in a combat operation in the east of the country — the first US combat death in Afghanistan since January 1.
Several members of the Afghan security forces were also killed in the operation, according to the US Department of Defense.
Fighting the Taliban
The recent uptick in violence comes despite reports in March that suggested some factions of the Taliban had expressed interested in pursuing peace talks with the Afghan government.
Those reports came on the heels of an Afghan government announcement in February that it would be willing to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political party, as part of a potential ceasefire agreement with the Islamist militant group.
The Taliban has been waging a bitter fight in Afghanistan with the ultimate goal of ruling the country and imposing its strict interpretation of Islamic law.
The group controlled Afghanistan until 2001, when it was overthrown by the US-led coalition that invaded the country following the 9/11 attacks.
But in recent years, a resurgent Taliban has taken control of significant swaths of the country.
At the same time, areas once seen as strongholds — such as Kabul’s military base — have recently been vulnerable to attack, raising further questions over the Afghan government’s ability to protect the country.