Villagers search for bodies after Afghan mosque blast - GulfToday

Villagers search for bodies after Afghan mosque blast

Afghan-burial

Afghan men bury victims of bomb blast in the village of Jodari, Afghanistan, on Saturday. Associated Press

Villagers searched for the bodies of their loved ones on Saturday in the rubble of a mosque in eastern Afghanistan that collapsed in a blast during Friday prayers, killing 70 people including dozens of children, officials said.

The attack — the country’s second most deadly this year — took place in Haska Mina district of eastern Nangarhar province and also wounded at least 36 people.

“We have reports that the death toll has reached 70 in yesterday’s incident,” the provincial governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP.

“We have sent assistance to the district that includes food and other items,” he said.

Witnesses said the roof of the mosque fell through after a “loud” explosion, the cause of which was still being investigated Khogyani said.

At least 27 of the victims were school children, said Asif Shinwari, a spokesman for Nangarhar’s education department.

“They were ninth- to tenth-graders. Sixteen school children were wounded,” he told AFP, adding that children usually studied at the mosque after prayers. About 350 worshippers were inside the mosque when the blast happened, according to local residents.

“We are still searching for bodies. Most of those who were killed were children or young boys under 18,” resident Omar Ghorzang said.

Donya Gul, another local resident who lost a brother and eight cousins in the incident, also said some people were still missing.

“They buried the bodies yesterday and they buried the bodies today... We are searching for at least five more people. We might only find the pieces of their bodies,” he said.

Villagers from the surrounding Haskamena district said that there were more than one hundred worshippers at the time of the bombing in the mosque.

Gulab Shinwari, a villager, said that when he reached the site of the blast with other locals, they found “a heartbreaking scene.

No one has claimed responsibility for the blast. A spokesman for the Taliban said the group “condemned this atrocity in the strongest terms” and labelled it a “major crime”.

The Daesh group is also active in Nangarhar.

The attack came after the United Nations released a report on Thursday saying an “unprecedented” number of civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan from July to September.

The figures — 1,174 deaths and 3,139 injured from July 1 until September 30 — represent a 42 per cent increase compared to the same period last year.

The UN laid most of the blame for the spike at the feet of “anti-government elements” such as the Taliban, who have been carrying out an insurgency in Afghanistan for more than 18 years.

The Taliban rejected the report.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “strongly” condemned the attack and said those responsible must be held accountable, his office’s 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 violence comes just after a United Nations report said that Afghan civilians are dying in record numbers in the country’s increasingly brutal war, noting that more civilians died in July than in any previous one-month period since the UN began keeping statistics.

“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 UN secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan. The report said that 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.

Khan Mohammad another villager said that on the day of the incident there were around 100 to 110 worshippers in the mosque, of which more than 70 were martyred and more than 30 others were wounded.

Agencies