KABUL: Thirty Taliban insurgents, six of them foreign militants, were killed by an explosion inside a mosque where they had gathered for a “bomb-making training” session in northern Afghanistan on Saturday, officials said.
“As a result of the explosion of a mine in a mosque, 30 terrorist Taliban, including six foreign nationals who were professional mine-makers, were killed,” a Defense Ministry statement said.
“This incident happened as a number of Taliban . . . had gathered for mine-making training . . . ” it added.
The incident took place at 9.15 a.m. in the Qitla village of the Dawlat Abad district of Balkh province, which lies some 450 km to the north of the capital city Kabul and shares its border with Uzbekistan, ministry officials said.
Fawad Aman, a spokesman for the ministry, said: “There were no survivors from the blast,” calling it the “deadliest of its kind” for the insurgents.
“In the past, the enemies would have suffered like six, eight or 10 people while either planting a bomb or making a mine, but this is the first time they suffered such heavy losses,” he told Arab News.
The Taliban confirmed the blast but denied reports of any loss of lives.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that the explosion had occurred last night in a room used for storing ammunition and “not today as reported by government officials.”
“But we strongly reject the report of deaths, there was no single casualty,” Mujahid told Arab News by phone.
“And in the morning time, the enemy’s planes came for bombarding the room. A mosque nearby was also partially damaged,” he said.
Munir Ahmad Farhad, a spokesman for Balkh’s governor, told Arab News that the Taliban have had a “heavy presence in Dawlat Abad for years,” but had not heard about the Defense Ministry’s report related to the incident.
Balkh was among one of the relatively secure parts of Afghanistan until recent years, but the Taliban have extended their reach there from their traditional power base in the south and southeast of the country since the reduction of US-led troops in the past few years and due to infighting among government leaders.
“An independent investigation is needed to determine what has happened in Dawlat Abad, where and how it occurred,” Taj Mohammad, an analyst, told Arab News. “Was it an airstrike or accident or bomb-making training as the government claims?”