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Kandahar's Abdurrab Akhondzada Mosque after today's blast Kandahar, Afghanistan; 1 June 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The Afghan Interior Ministry says at least 17 people were killed and 36 injured today when a suicide bomber blew himself up at Kandahar's main mosque.

A doctor at the city's main hospital says 20 bodies have been brought there. Security officials and eyewitnesses had earlier told RFE/RL the death toll could exceed 50. The Afghan Interior Ministry says its visiting security chief for Kabul, Akram Khakrizwal, is among the dead.

RFE/RL correspondent Reshtin Qadiri, who is at the scene of the blast, describes what she saw: "I'm in the area [just outside the mosque's entrance], and this place is covered with blood and body parts. The scene here is [horrific and] almost surreal."

She added: "The [explosion] happened at the Abdurrab Akhondzada Mosque. It was a suicide bomb attack. The explosion happened at 9 a.m. Witnesses and security forces say the number of dead could be between 50 to 60 people."

RFE/RL's Qadiri describes accounts of the attack: "According to eyewitness accounts, commander Akram Khakrizwal -- who was the [Interior Ministry's] security chief in Kabul -- had just entered [the small room at the front of] the mosque with his bodyguards. The suicide bomber was dressed like one of [Khakrizwal's] bodyguards. And as [Khakrizwal] entered, the suicide bomber went in with them. It was when Khakrizwal paused to take off his shoes that this person jumped under [him] and blew himself up."

The attack occurred during the funeral service for an Islamic cleric, who was a strong supporter of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The cleric was shot dead in Kandahar on 29 May by a suspected Taliban militant.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Lutfollah Mashal told the Afghan Service in Kabul about today's suicide bomb attack in Kandahar. "The investigation is under way. It is not clear [who is behind the attack] but one thing that is clear is that these people [perpetrators] are enemies of Islam and enemies of Afghanistan because this is the first time that a suicide
attack has been committed inside a mosque and people who came to pray have been killed."

(RFE/RL Afghan Service)
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