16 die in Afghanistan mosque blast

7 Indian engineers abducted in Baghlan

Kabul

A bomb went off inside a mosque in eastern Afghanistan that was being used as a voter registration center Sunday, killing at least 16 people and wounding 33 others, authorities said.
People were at the mosque for afternoon prayers and registering to vote, Khost police chief Abdul Mannan confirmed Sunday.
Bashir Khan, a spokesman for the police department in Khost Province, said in a New York Times report explosives apparently had been hidden in the mosque.
Mohammadin Mangal, deputy head of the health department for Khost, said at least 12 bodies, including at least one woman, and the wounded were transported to the hospital after the attack.
National parliament elections are planned in October. All citizens must have their national identity documents stamped because previous cards were invalidated because of widespread forgery.
The registration process ends June 15. Maliha Hassan, an election commissioner, said that 1.2 million Afghans of 14 million eligible had registered to vote so far.
Meanwhile, seven Indian engineers and an Afghan national working for a power plant in northern Baghlan province of Afghanistan were kidnapped on Sunday, officials said.
Zabihullah Shuja, spokesman for Baghlan police, said the engineers were travelling to a government-run power station in a minibus when unknown gunmen abducted them and their Afghan driver.
Two officials at the Indian embassy in Kabul confirmed the kidnapping of the engineers, all working for the Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat that operates power generating stations.
“We are aware of the abduction of Indian nationals from Baghlan province in Afghanistan. We are in contact with the Afghan authorities and further details are being ascertained,” a spokesperson for India’s external affairs ministry said.
A senior Indian embassy official said over 150 Indian engineers and technical experts are currently working across Afghanistan on large infrastructure projects.
According to reports, local officials have confirmed that the seven people were employees of KEC International Ltd and were kidnapped while travelling to Pul-e-Khomre, capital city of Baghlan where the company is said to have an electricity substation contract. Afghanistan’s power utility company Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat had signed an agreement with KEC to construct transmission lines in the war-devastated country.
KEC Board of Directors Chairman, Harsh Goenka appealed to the government to aid the workers.
It is not known who is responsible for the kidnapping or whether a ransom has been sought for their release. Baghlan provincial council has linked the incident to the Taliban. No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction so far.
In 2016, an Indian aid worker was kidnapped in Kabul. She was released after 40 days. The Indian government regularly issues a security alert for Indians residing in Afghanistan and travelling to the war-torn country.— Agencies

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