The attack came just after they declared militancy un-Islamic and called for peace talks

A suicide bomber killed at least eight people at a gathering of Afghanistan’s top clerics on Monday, just minutes after they issued a fatwa declaring militant attacks un-Islamic and called on Taliban insurgents to enter peace talks.

“One police man and seven civilians were killed and around 14 are injured,” said Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai.

Just moments before the blast at the Loya Jirga tent in Kabul, more than 2,000 religious leaders gathered there had issued a decree against the violence perpetrated by the Taliban. The hardline Islamist group has waged war against foreign forces and western-backed governments since the 2001 US-led invasion that deposed them.

“The war in Afghanistan is illegal and has no root in Sharia,” the clerics said in a statement issued at the end of the meeting. “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.”

Abdul Basir Haqqani, head of Kabul’s Ulema Council, told The National that several participants in the gathering were among the dead or injured.

“We were all leaving the venue after the meeting; I was in my car at the gate of the Loya Jirga tent when the explosion happened,” said Mr Haqqani, who was uninjured.

“Many of my friends were among the wounded; Ulema members and representatives of mosques,” he said. “A friend of mine, Gul Ahmad Delawar, from the Ministry of Haj and Religious Affairs, was also badly wounded.”

While the Taliban has criticised the members of the Ulema Council in the past for being “pro-government”, they denied involvement in the attack.

“Today’s blast in Kabul has nothing to do with the Mujahideen of Islamic Emirates,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote on Taliban-linked social media accounts.

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