JALALABAD, Afghanistan (AFP) – At least 62 people were killed by a blast inside an Afghan mosque on Friday, according to officials, a day after the United Nations (UN) said violence in the country had reached “unacceptable” levels.
The attack – the year’s second most deadly to date – took place in the eastern province of Nangarhar and also wounded at least 33 people, the provincial governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP.
The blast was carried out with “explosives that were placed inside the mosque”, Khogyani said, though other sources – including the Taleban – said the building may have been hit by a mortar. A spokesman for the Taleban said the group has “condemned this atrocity in the strongest terms” and labelled it a “major crime”.
The Islamic State group has also been active in Nangarhar.
Witnesses said the roof of the mosque had fallen through after a “loud” explosion, the nature of which was not immediately clear.
About 350 worshippers were inside at the time, local resident Omar Ghorzang told AFP.
“Dozens of people were killed and wounded and were taken in several ambulances,” Haji Amanat Khan told AFP.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said children were among the injured.
“Those responsible for this attack must be held accountable,” the spokesman said.
The blast came after the UN released a new report on Thursday saying an “unprecedented” number of civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan from July to September.
The report, which also charts violence throughout 2019 so far, underscores how “Afghans have been exposed to extreme levels of violence for many years” despite promises by all sides to “prevent and mitigate harm to civilians”.
It also noted the absurdity of the ever-increasing price paid by civilians given the widespread belief that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won by either side.
“Civilian casualties are totally unacceptable,” the UN’s special representative in Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto said, adding they demonstrate the importance of talks leading to a ceasefire and a permanent political settlement.
The UN laid most of the blame for the spike at the feet of “anti-government elements” such as the Taleban, who have been carrying out an insurgency in Afghanistan for more than 18 years.