Mujib Rahman Ansari: Taliban cleric killed in Herat mosque blast

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A leading pro-Taliban cleric is among 18 killed in an explosion outside a mosque in the Afghan city of Herat.

Mujib Rahman Ansari died alongside his brother, members of his security detail and civilians gathered for prayers in a suspected suicide blast, officials say.

It is not yet clear who is behind the attack, which the Taliban denounced as “sinister” and “cowardly”.

The killing is the latest in a string of assassinations of prominent pro-Taliban figures in the country.

According to local outlets, Ansari was arriving at Gazargah mosque to lead Friday noon prayers in the western Afghan city when the deadly explosion took place.

Unverified images on social media appear to show a number of bloodied corpses lying amid a scene of devastation outside the mosque compound.

“Unfortunately, the country’s popular religious scholar Mawlawi Mujib Rahman Ansari has been martyred in a cowardly attack during the Friday prayers in Herat,” a Taliban spokesman tweeted.

The cleric was well-known in Afghanistan for his support of the Taliban’s rule.

Speaking earlier this summer at a religious gathering in Kabul, he called for those who committed “the smallest act against our Islamic government” to be beheaded, according to AFP news agency.

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No one has claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack, but the militant Islamic State (IS) group has previously issued videos threatening the pro-Taliban cleric.

The blast follows a string of violent attacks across the Taliban-controlled country this summer.

Last month 21 people were killed in an explosion at a Kabul mosque just days after IS said it killed another prominent pro-Taliban cleric – also in the capital.

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