Top Taliban cleric killed in Kabul suicide blast claimed by Islamic State

i24NEWS - AFP/Reuters

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An Afghan boy skips on the rooftop of an Islamic seminary overlooking the Kabul skyline in Afghanistan, on December 8, 2019.
AP Photo/Altaf QadriAn Afghan boy skips on the rooftop of an Islamic seminary overlooking the Kabul skyline in Afghanistan, on December 8, 2019.

Haqqani was known for fiery speeches against the Islamic State, which often claims attacks in Afghanistan

A senior Taliban cleric was killed on Thursday at a seminary in the Afghan capital of Kabul in a suicide attack claimed by the jihadist Islamic State group.

Rahimullah Haqqani – known for his fiery speeches against the Islamic State (IS) – survived at least two previous assassination attempts, including one in Pakistan in October 2020.

"The madrassa of Sheikh Rahimullah was targeted today and as a result, he and one of his brothers were martyred," Kabul police spokesman Khalid Zadran told AFP, adding that three others were wounded in the blast.

Government spokesman Bilal Karimi confirmed his death "in an attack carried out by a cowardly enemy.”

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Hours later, IS claimed the attack on its telegram channels, saying the bomber detonated his explosive vest inside the office of the cleric.

Haqqani was one of the most "prominent advocates for the Taliban and one of the biggest of them who incited to fight" IS, jihadist monitoring group SITE said, translating a statement from IS.

Taliban sources said that although he held no official position, Haqqani was an influential figure who taught many of the group's members over the years.

Scores of Taliban officials took to social media to express their condolences.

"You have fulfilled your responsibility. Destiny cannot be prevented, but the Muslim community has been orphaned," tweeted Mobin Khan, a former spokesman for the Kabul police.

Haqqani was known for angry speeches against IS, who claimed several attacks in Afghanistan since the Taliban's return to power in August last year.

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