An explosion rocked a mosque in eastern Afghanistan as dozens of people gathered for Friday prayers, causing the roof to collapse and killing 62 worshippers, provincial officials said. “Both men and children are among those killed and wounded in the attack,” said Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar Province.
The attack underscored the record-high number of civilians dying in the A United Nations report said Thursday 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.
“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.
A wounded man is brought by stretcher into a hospital after a mortar was fired by insurgents in Haskamena district of Jalalabad east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, October 18, 2019.
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.
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.