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Blast at mosque in western Afghanistan kills cleric, civilians

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A blast outside a mosque in the city of Herat in Western Afghanistan on Friday killed a high-profile pro-Taliban cleric as well as civilians in what authorites said was an attack.

“Mujib Rahman Ansari, with some of his guards and civilians, have been killed on their way toward the mosque,” said Herat’s police spokesperson Mahmood Rasoli.

Rasoli did not say how many casualties the blast caused.

Al Jazeera Media Network, citing unnamed sources, said 14 people had been killed.

The Taliban’s spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid, in a Tweet expressed “strong condolences” over Ansari’s death and said his attackers would be punished.

Mujib Rahman Ansari had spoken strongly in defence of the Taliban at a large gathering of thousands of scholars and elders organised by the group in late June, condemning anyone who stood against their administration.

The Taliban say they have improved security in the country since taking power around a year ago, but there have been several blasts in recent months, some of them targeting busy mosques during prayers. The United Nations has raised concerns about the growing number of attacks and some blasts have been claimed by a local branch of the Islamic State.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday’s explosion.

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