Taliban arrest Islamic State 'mastermind' of Afghan mosque attack: police

Taliban arrest Islamic State 'mastermind' of Afghan mosque attack: police
The Taliban have arrested a suspected Islamic State militant accused of planting the bomb that killed dozens of people at a Shia mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif.
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Dozens of worshippers were killed when a bomb exploded at a Shia mosque in northern Afghanistan [Getty]

Taliban forces have arrested a suspected Islamic State militant who planned a bomb attack that killed at least 12 worshippers at a Shia mosque in Afghanistan, police said on Friday.

IS claimed the bomb blast that tore through the Seh Dokan mosque during midday prayers in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Thursday.

The attack also wounded 58 people.

Balkh province's police spokesman Asif Waziri said Abdul Hamid Sangaryar was a key operative of IS.

"He was the mastermind of yesterday's attack on the mosque," Waziri told AFP. The interior ministry also reported the arrest of Sangaryar, an Afghan national.

"He played a key role in several attacks in the past and had repeatedly managed to escape, but this time we arrested him in a special operation," Waziri said.

IS also claimed a separate bomb attack in another northern city of Kunduz on Thursday that killed four people and wounded 18 people.

The group has taken responsibility for deadly attacks in Afghanistan, often against Shia targets, even as the number of bombings have fallen since the Taliban seized power in August last year.

Shia Afghans are mostly from the ethnic Hazara community and make up between 10 and 20 percent of the country's 38 million people. They have long been the target of the IS, who consider them heretics.

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Earlier this week, at least six people were killed in twin blasts that hit a boys' school in a Shia neighbourhood of Kabul.

No group has so far claimed that attack.

Taliban officials insist their forces have defeated IS, but analysts say the jihadist group is a key security challenge.

The Taliban have regularly raided suspected IS hideouts, especially in eastern Nangarhar province - a bastion of the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), the local wing of the jihadist group.

The biggest ideological difference between the two Sunni Islamist groups is that the Taliban sought only an Afghanistan free of foreign forces, whereas IS wants an Islamic caliphate stretching from Turkey to Pakistan and beyond.