Sixty-two people have died after an explosion at a mosque in eastern caused the roof to collapse on worshippers gathered for Friday prayers. The attack underscored the record numbers of civilians dying in the country’s 18-year war.
Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, said the militant attack wounded 36 others. He said it was not immediately clear whether the mosque was attacked by a suicide bomber or it was some other type of bombing.
“Both men and children are among those killed and wounded in the attack,” he said.
Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, criticised the attack on his official Twitter account. “The Afghan government strongly condemns today’s suicide attack in a mosque in Nangarhar province,” he tweeted.
'They were all killed in front of my eyes': the brutal cost of war in Afghanistan
“The and their partners heinous crimes continue to target civilians in time of worship,” he added.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but both the Taliban and are active in eastern Afghanistan, especially Nangarhar province.
However, the Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid condemned the attack in a statement and called it a serious crime.
Zahir Adil, spokesman for the public health department in Nangarhar province, said 23 of the wounded were transferred to Jalalabad, the provincial capital, and the rest were being treated in the Haskamena district clinic.
The violence comes a day after a UN report said Afghan civilians were dying in record numbers in the country’s increasingly brutal war, noting that more civilians died in July than in any previous month since the UN began keeping statistics.
“Civilian casualties at record-high levels clearly show the need for all parties concerned to pay much more attention to protecting the civilian population, including through a review of conduct during combat operations,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN secretary general’s special representative for Afghanistan.
The report said pro-government forces caused 2,348 civilian casualties – 1,149 killed and 1,199 wounded – a 26% increase from the same period in 2018.
The report said 2,563 civilians were killed and 5,676 were wounded in the first nine months of this year. Insurgents were responsible for 62% of all civilian casualties. July to September were the deadliest months so far this year.
Efforts to restart talks to end Afghanistan’s 18-year war increased earlier this month. President Donald Trump had last month declared the talks “dead”, blaming a surge in violence by the Taliban that included the killing of a US soldier.
The US peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, visited Pakistan and met the Taliban’s top negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Baradar is a co-founder of the hardline Islamic movement and was head of a Taliban delegation to Islamabad.
US officials said Khalilzad was only in the Pakistani capital to follow up on talks he held in September in New York with Pakistani officials, including the prime minister, Imran Khan. They insisted he was not in Pakistan to restart US-Taliban peace talks.
In western Herat province, six civilians, including four children, were killed on Thursday when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb, said Jelani Farhad, spokesman for the provincial governor. He added that five other civilians were wounded in the attack in the Zawal district.