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Islamic clerics hit by bomber right after suicide attack "fatwa"

An Afghan police officer keeps watch at the site of a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 4, 2018.

REUTERS

KABUL -- An attack targeting a meeting of Afghanistan's top religious body on Monday left at least seven people dead and nine others wounded, according to Kabul police. Ghafor Aziz, the police chief of Kabul's 5th District, said officers were working to secure the area after the attack.

A suicide bomber struck at one of the entrances of the compound where the meeting of the religious body, known as the Afghan Ulema Council, was taking place in the traditional tent of the Loya Jirga, or the council of elders.

It was not immediately clear how many of the clerics were among those killed.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but it appears to be the latest in a series of attacks by Islamic militants in Kabul. Both the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Afghanistan and the Taliban have launched several attacks in Kabul in recent months, killing hundreds of people.

Around 2,000 members of the council had gathered for the Loya Jirga, which earlier on Monday issued an Islamic ruling, or a fatwa, declaring that suicide attacks "haram," or forbidden under Islamic law. The explosion struck as the gathering was ending and the participants were about to leave. 

The council appealed to both the Afghan government forces and the Taliban and other militants to halt the fighting and agree on a cease-fire. It also called for peace negotiations between the two sides. It was the first time the council has issued such an appeal.

Less than an hour before the attack happened, Ghofranullah Murad, a member of the council, read out a written statement from the gathering saying that innocent Afghan men, women and children are the true victims of the 17-year-long war.

"The ongoing war in Afghanistan is illegal and has no root in Sharia (Islamic) law," the statement said. "It is illegal according to Islamic laws and it does nothing but shed the blood of Muslims."

"We the religious Ulema call on the Taliban to respond positively to the peace offer of the Afghan government in order to prevent further bloodshed in the country," it added.

The fatwa also said that killing people by any means - such as bombs and suicide attacks - as well as violent acts, including robbery and kidnapping, count as sins in Islam.