No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Taliban movement, which grew out of Islamic seminaries in the 1990s, uses the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan as justification for what they call a holy war.
“We were on our way out of the compound when we heard a loud blast,” said Maulavi Inayatullah Baleegh, a prominent cleric who attended the meeting. “All of us dispersed and ran to seek shelter.”
“I did not know what happened afterward,” he said. “But when I got out I saw my vehicle was damaged and a lot of people were martyred. It was right at the end of the gathering.”
Hundreds of religious scholars who have sided with the government or have openly denounced the Taliban since the group was ousted from power in 2001 have met a grim end. Such targeted violence has led many clerics — even those appalled by the bloodshed waged in the name of Islam — to keep quiet.
“We knew about the risks, but we, as scholars, thought it is more important to hold the gathering despite all the risks because attaining peace is our prime objective,” said Maulavi Shafiullah Nuristani, who was thrown by the blast on Monday and injured his leg. “Nothing can stop us — not these attacks or anything else. We are ready to do our best to achieve peace.”