As the United States appears to be switching its foreign policy approach from the Middle East to the conflict between Taiwan and China, a Friday blast killed at least 46 people and wounded dozens more at a mosque in Afghanistan. The video above shows the wreckage left behind by the attack.
The explosion happened as Shiite Muslim worshippers were gathering for the weekly Friday prayer service at the Gozar-e-Sayed Abad Mosque in the Kunduz province. The Provence’s deputy police chief said the “majority of [worshipers] have been killed”.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the Afghanistan blast. The group has a long history of attacking Afghanistan’s Shiite Muslims.
The Friday blast is expected to be the deadliest attack in Afghanistan since U.S. and NATO forces left the country at the end of August. The Taliban have been targeted in a series of deadly IS attacks, including shooting ambushes and an explosion at a mosque in Kabul.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Taliban special forces had arrived to the scene and were investigating the incident. “I assure our Shiite brothers that the Taliban are prepared to ensure their safety,” Kunduz Deputy Police Chief Dost Mohammad Obaida said.
The Afghanistan blast comes as Reuters reports that small numbers of U.S. special operations forces have been rotating into Taiwan on a temporary basis to train with Taiwanese forces. In its report, Reuters cited two anonymous sources familiar with the matter.
As of early Friday morning, there was no official confirmation from military officials. “I don’t have any comments on specific operations, engagements, or training, but I would like to highlight that our support for and defense relationship with Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat posed by the People’s Republic of China,” Pentagon spokesman John Supple said. Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry only added “all military exchanges are carried out in accordance with annual plans”.
However, China did comment on the matter on Friday. “The U.S. side should fully recognize the great sensitivity of the Taiwan issue,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said. “China will take all necessary measures to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
In recent days, Chinese military aircraft have repeatedly flown through Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. However, China has avoided Taiwan’s actual airspace.