A huge explosion struck a mosque in Kabul during evening prayers on Wednesday, witnesses and police said, with many feared dead or injured.

Police said there were multiple casualties but did not say how many. One Taliban intelligence official told Reuters that as many as 35 people may have been wounded or killed, and the toll could rise further.

Al Jazeera quoted an unidentified official as giving a death toll of 20.

Witnesses told Reuters that the powerful explosion was heard in a northern Kabul neighbourhood, shattering windows in nearby buildings. Ambulances rushed to the spot.

“A blast happened inside a mosque…. the blast has casualties, but the numbers are not clear yet,” Kabul police spokesperson Khalid Zadran told Reuters.

The Taliban intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the explosion occurred in a mosque among worshippers in Khair Khana area of Kabul.

A resident told the AP that the imam of the mosque, named by the witness as Mullah Amir Mohammad Kabuli, was among the dead.

Intelligence teams were at blast site and investigations were ongoing.

Other officials in the Taliban government did not reply to multiple requests to confirm the number of casualties.

Meanwhile, Italian non-governmental organisation (NGO) Emergency, which operates a hospital in the capital, said it was treating 27 patients who had been wounded in the blast, three of whom had died. Five of the wounded were children.

“We have recorded three fatalities,” Emergency told the AFP news agency via email.

A security official told Al Jazeera that 20 people were killed in the blast and 40 others wounded. The Associated Press news agency reported the death toll at 10.

Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed there were dead and wounded, but did not specify how many.

“The murderers of civilians and perpetrators … will soon be punished for their crimes,” he wrote on Twitter.

Despite the Taliban’s assertion that they have brought security to the nation, Afghanistan has seen regular attacks by armed groups, many of them claimed by an ISIL affiliate known as the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K), in recent months.

Last week, a prominent Taliban religious leader, Sheikh Rahimullah Haqqani, was killed in a bombing attack at a seminary in Kabul, Taliban officials said. The ISIL (ISIS) armed group claimed responsibility for the attack.

In June, ISKP claimed responsibility for the attack on a Sikh temple in Kabul that killed two people.

The Taliban retook power in August 2021 during the chaotic withdrawal of United States-led NATO forces. No country has yet recognised the Taliban’s de facto government.

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