Kabul: Twenty people were killed in an hours-long suicide bomb and gun attack on a Shiite mosque in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Friday, an official said.
"We have ten civilians martyred and over 50 wounded. One police and one special forces member were also killed," Najib Danish, deputy interior ministry spokesman, told AFP, adding that the attack was over.
Gunshots could be heard and witnesses reported seeing worshippers smash windows to escape the building.
More than 10 ambulances were at the scene and dozens of security forces have surrounded the mosque, in a residential area in the city's north.
Kabul police spokesman Abdul Basir Mujahid said a suicide bomber "detonated himself inside the mosque", adding that there were casualties but could not confirm numbers.
An interior ministry spokesman told media that at least two police officers had been killed. A health ministry official confirmed at least two people had died and 11 were wounded, without specifying if they were civilians.
People gathered outside the mosque, believed to have been crowded with Friday worshippers, were trying to call women and children trapped inside but their mobile phones were not responding, an AFP reporter at the scene said.
"Our relatives have been stranded inside the mosque... We believe they have been held hostage by the gunmen. We are very concerned about their safety and may God help us and rescue our loved ones," one said.
Tempers were beginning to fray as onlookers called for the forces to storm the building.
The assault underscores spiralling insecurity in Afghanistan as a resurgent Taliban steps up offensives across the country, while the Sunni Islamic State group, known for carrying out sectarian attacks, expands its Afghan footprint.
It comes just days after US President Donald Trump pledged American troops would stay in Afghanistan indefinitely.
Najib Danish, a deputy spokesman for the interior ministry, told TOLOnews that initial information suggested a suicide bomber detonated himself and two or three other militants had entered the mosque and were exchanging fire with police.
"Two Afghan police forces were martyred and two others were wounded and have been taken to hospital. All the four police officers were responsible for the security of the site," Danish wrote on Facebook.
"The bombers are running short of bullet rounds and they are using knives to stab worshippers," an eyewitness told an AFP reporter.
Witnesses said the attackers were also armed with rocket propelled grenade launchers.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Shiites, a minority of around three million in overwhelmingly Sunni Afghanistan, have regularly been targeted by IS jihadists over the past year. They accuse police and troops of failing to protect them.
IS has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks killing dozens of Shiites in Kabul over the past year, including twin explosions in July 2016 that ripped through crowds of Shiite Hazaras, killing at least 85 people and wounding more than 400.
Earlier this month 33 worshippers were killed and 66 wounded in a suicide attack claimed by the Islamic State Group on a Shiite mosque in the western Afghan city of Herat....