62 perish as bomb goes off in Afghan mosque

October 19, 2019

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A volunteer carries an injured youth to hospital following a bomb blast in the Haska Mina area of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province on Friday.—AFP
A volunteer carries an injured youth to hospital following a bomb blast in the Haska Mina area of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province on Friday.—AFP

JALALABAD: At least 62 people were killed in a blast inside an Afghan mosque during Friday prayers, according to officials, a day after the United Nations said violence in the country had reached “unacceptable” levels.

The explosion, which witnesses said caused collapse of the mosque’s roof, took place in eastern Nangarhar province and also left at least 33 people injured, said governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani.

A Taliban spokesman called the attack “a major crime”, apparently denying responsibility and blaming it on the militant Islamic State group or government forces.

The attack occurred in Haska Mina district, about 50 kilometres from the provincial capital, Jalalabad.

Witnesses said the roof of the mosque fell after the “loud” explosion, the nature of which was not immediately clear.

Taliban spokesman terms attack ‘a major crime’

Some 350 worshippers were inside at the time, local resident Omar Ghorzang said. “Dozens of people were killed and wounded and were taken in several ambulances,” Haji Amanat Khan, a 65-year-old resident, 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 charts violence so far this year, 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,” said the UN’s special representative in Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, adding they demonstrate the importance of talks leading to a ceasefire and a permanent political settlement.

Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2019