Mosque Blast Kills 62 Worshippers During Friday Prayers

An explosion rocked a mosque in eastern Afghanistan as dozens gathered for Friday prayers, causing the roof to collapse and killing 62 worshippers.

middAn Afghan official says at least 62 people have been killed in a mosque explosion that caused the roof to collapse in eastern Nagarhar province.

Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor, says 36 others were wounded in the attack in the Haskamena district. He says there were children among the dead and wounded.

The attack took place as dozens of people gathered inside the mosque to offer weekly Friday prayers.

Men carry an injured person to a hospital after a bomb blast at a mosque in Jalalabad, Afghanistan October 18, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Parwiz

The attack comes days after the United Nations released a report on Thursday which said more civilians died in July than in any previous one-month period since the U.N. began keeping statistics.

The report said pro-government forces caused 2,348 civilian casualties, including 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%. July to September were the deadliest months so far this year.

"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 U.N. secretary-general's special representative for Afghanistan.

Men carry an injured person to a hospital after a bomb blast at a mosque, in Jalalabad, Afghanistan October 18, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Parwiz

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Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, strongly condemned the attack on Twitter. "The Taliban and their partners heinous crimes continue to target civilians in time of worship," he added.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast, but both the Taliban and ISIS are active in eastern Afghanistan, especially Nangarhar province.

However, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban's spokesman in a statement condemned the attack in Nangarhar and called it a serious crime.

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.

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Efforts to restart talks to end Afghanistan's 18-year war picked up earlier this month, just weeks after President Trump last month declared the talks "dead," blaming a surge in violence by the Taliban that included the killing of a U.S. soldier.

Feature Image: Reuters