Afghans say Taleban behind mosque blast

KABUL - Taleban insurgents were responsible for a suicide bomb attack on an Afghan mosque last week that killed 20 people, Afghan state television said.

A bomber detonated explosives in a crowded mosque in the southern city of Kandahar last Wednesday as mourners gathered to pay respects to an assassinated anti-Taleban cleric. Among the dead was the capital's police chief, Akram Khakreezwal.

Initial suspicion fell on al Qaeda and a Taleban spokesman denied responsibility, but the investigation by police, military and security officials determined Taleban responsibility, Afghanistan National Television said.

"The panel ... said this suicide attack was the work of the Taleban and the enemies of Afghanistan," it said.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, Afghanistan's first suicide blast at a mosque and the most serious incident in a recent spate of violence.

The explosive used in the mosque bomb was similar to that used in a bomb to kill then opposition leader Ahmad Shah Masood just before the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001, the television said, citing the investigation team.

It did not elaborate.

Al Qaeda agents were held responsible for Masood's killing. Two Tunisian militants posed as journalists and died when they detonated a bomb during an interview with him in Afghanistan.

Shortly after last Wednesday's blast, the governor of Kandahar province, Gul Agha Sherzai, said al Qaeda was responsible. Asked what proof he had, he said the dead bomber appeared to be an Arab.

During the 1996-2001 rule of the hardline Taleban, hundreds of Arabs came to Afghanistan to join al Qaeda. Some are still with insurgents on the Pakistan border.

Taleban guerrillas have been battling the US-backed government and US-led forces since they were ousted in late 2001.

The brother of the Kabul police chief killed in the blast said he did not believe the Taleban or their al Qaeda allies were responsible. He also said he did not believe it was a suicide attack, as the authorities say.

"This was not the Taleban's work or a suicide attack. It was carried out by a remote-controlled bomb planted in the mosque," Akbar Khakreezwal told a news conference in Kandahar.

He said his brother was the target but declined to elaborate on who might be responsible except to say they were "local enemies of Afghanistan".

- REUTERS

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