At least 62 worshippers have been killed and dozens injured after multiple explosions rocked a mosque in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province during Friday prayers, according to officials, a day after the United Nations said violence in the country had reached “unacceptable” levels.
The attack in Haska Mena district also wounded at least 33 people, the provincial governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP news agency.
However, another senior official in the province told Reuters that more than 100 people were wounded in the year’s second most deadly attack and the toll could rise.
The blast was carried out with “explosives that were placed inside the mosque”, Khogyani said, though other sources – including the Taliban – said the building may have been hit by a mortar.
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 Haska Mena clinic.
Witnesses said the roof of the mosque had fallen through after the “loud” explosion. Some 350 worshippers were inside at the time, local resident Omar Ghorzang told AFP.
Malik Mohammadi Gul Shinwari, a tribal elder from the area, said that the mosque had been destroyed.
“It was a heartbreaking scene I witnessed,” Shinwari told Reuters.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts, which Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, strongly condemned.
“The Afghan government strongly condemns today’s suicide attack in a mosque in Nangarhar province,” Sediqqi said in a post on Twitter.
“The Taliban and their partners heinous crimes continue to target civilians in time of worship,” he added.
But Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban, denied responsibility. “All witnesses say it was a mortar attack by Kabul Adm. [Administration] forces,” he said in a tweet.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, through a spokesman, said children were among the injured.
“Those responsible for this attack must be held accountable,” the spokesman said.
Amnesty International’s deputy South Asia director, Omar Waraich, said the attack “demands the world’s attention.”
“Flagrant violations of international humanitarian law such as deliberate targeting of civilians are not something anyone should get used to or learn to ignore,” he said.
The blasts came a day after the United Nations said violence in Afghanistan had reached “unacceptable” levels