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

Jalalabad, Afghanistan — At least 62 people were killed by a blast inside an Afghan mosque during Friday prayers, according to officials, a day after the UN said violence in the country had reached “unacceptable” levels.

The explosion, which witnesses said collapsed the mosque's roof, took place in eastern Nangarhar province and also wounded at least 33 people, provincial governor spokesperson Attaullah Khogyani said.

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

The attack occurred in Haska Mina district, about 50km from the provincial capital Jalalabad. Witnesses said the roof of the mosque had fallen through after the “loud” explosion, the nature of which was not immediately clear. About 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, another local resident, said.

he 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”.

“Civilian casualties are totally unacceptable,” said the UN's special representative in Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, adding that they demonstrate the importance of talks leading to a ceasefire and a permanent political settlement.

The figures — 1,174 deaths and 3,139 injured from July 1 until September 30 — represent a 42% increase compared to the same period in 2018.

The UN laid most of the blame for the spike at the feet of “antigovernment elements” such as the Taliban, which has been carrying out a bloody insurgency in Afghanistan for more than 18 years. July alone saw more casualties than in any other month on record since the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama) began documenting the violence in 2009.

The first six months of 2019 had seen casualties drop slightly compared to previous years. But the violence has surged so much in the third quarter that it has yanked the overall total for the year back on par with the bloodiest since Nato withdrew its combat forces at the end of 2014.

AFP