Samir Azizi was inside his home in Kunduz city while waiting for Friday prayer to begin when he heard an explosion.
The sound was coming from a nearby mosque. When he got there, where hundreds of Shiite Muslims had gathered for weekly prayers, he was shocked by the carnage before him.
“There were dozens of people. Old men, boys, all lying in pools of blood. You could hear people asking for help, ”the 25-year-old told Al Jazeera.
The attack on Friday afternoon, claimed by the Islamic State in Khorasan province, ISKP (ISIS-K), killed at least 72 people and left more than 140 injured, according to residents and hospital sources in the province.
Azizi said that immediately after the incident, residents struggled to transport the injured to health facilities, adding that ambulances did not arrive at the scene for at least 40 minutes.
“We were very few, but we did what we could, trying to transport anyone to a hospital,” he said.
Roads in the city are usually clear on Fridays, but the delay could have had a lot to do with the setbacks facing health facilities across the country since the United States and other international bodies cut Kabul’s access to more than $ 9.5 billion in assets and in response to the Taliban takeover in August.
Although the Afghan health system experienced many advances during the 20 years that foreign forces were present in the country, it relied heavily on foreign aid and the refusal of foreign governments to engage directly with the Taliban has left health facilities across the country struggling to treat patients.
Sources from the Kunduz regional hospital told Al Jazeera that five more patients died from their injuries on Saturday.
Jan Mohammad, another resident of Sayed Abad, the neighborhood where the bombing occurred, said most of the victims were young.
Najila Hussaini’s brother, Ajmal, was among those young worshipers. He left his home, about 200 meters from the mosque where members of the Hazara community had gathered, before prayers. The family was preparing lunch while waiting for Ajmal’s return when they heard the explosion.
“It shook the whole neighborhood,” Hussaini told Al Jazeera.
The 24-year-old immediately thought of her brother and ran to the mosque. Like everyone else who came to the scene, Hussaini couldn’t believe what he saw.
“They were all in blood and pieces. I kept looking for Ajmal, ”he said, adding that he did not remember how long his family spent searching for Ajmal, before realizing that he, or his body, was not there, at least not in its entirety.
The family spent much of the rest of Friday and early Saturday morning touring nearby hospitals and clinics, but has yet to find Ajmal.
“There were so many pieces everywhere. Who knows, one of those pieces could have been my brother, ”said Hussaini.
Friday’s attack was the third major bombing that ISKP, the longtime enemy of the Taliban, has claimed responsibility for since former President Ashraf Ghani fled and the Taliban took control on August 15.
It is also the second time this month that the group has attacked a mosque.
Last week at least five civilians they were killed when an ISKP bomber struck near Kabul’s Eid Gah Mosque, where relatives and friends of the Taliban’s Deputy Minister of Information and Culture, Zabihullah Mujahid, were attending a funeral for their mother.
ISKP has claimed responsibility for some of the deadliest attacks on Afghanistan’s Shiite minority in the past six years.
The Taliban condemned the attack and promised they would take action against the perpetrators.
Sources told Al Jazeera about the rivalry between the two groups, saying that one of the reasons ISKP has proven so difficult for the Taliban and previous Afghan governments to take down is that they have changed their tactics and now mainly operate. as “sleeper cells”. it can attack almost anywhere.