The death toll from twin blasts on a mosque in Gardez City of Paktia province climbed to 30 as Interior Ministry confirmed hours after the incident.
The blasts happened when two suicide bombers entered Sahib-ul-Zaman Mosque in Khwaja Hassan area in Gardez’s PD2 at around 1:20pm Kabul time.
The attackers then opened fire on security guards of the mosque.
Interior Ministry’s deputy spokesman Nusrat Rahimi said 20 of those wounded are in critical condition and that the death toll may rise.
Paktia Police Chief Brigadier General Raz Mohammad Mandozai told TOLOnews that those inside the mosque were doing the Friday prayers.
“Attackers targeted a mosque of our Shiite brothers in Gardez City. Our information show that 20 people were martyred and up to 40 others were wounded,” he said shortly after the incident.
Eyewitnesses said the attackers used hand grenades against worshippers inside the mosque.
The eyewitnesses said there were at least 600 people inside the mosque when the attacks happened.
“We were praying. Two suicide bombers blew their suicide vests here,” a resident of Gardez said.
“Which kind of government is this? There is no ambulance, no assistance,” a resident of Gardez said.
“We were not searched. We started to search others who entered the mosque,” a resident of the province said.
Paktia residents said security agencies had not informed them of a possible attack in the area.
“The attackers used women’s dresses to enter the area and killed security guards and then carried out suicide bombings inside the mosque,” said Shamim Khan Katawazai, Governor of Paktia.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a report last month that the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan reached a record high in the first half of the year, despite last month’s ceasefire, with a surge in suicide attacks claimed by Daesh.
The report said that the covering period 1 January to 30 June 2018, findings include the killing of more civilians in the first six months of this year – 1,692 deaths – than at any comparable time over the last ten years since records have been kept.
Deaths rose 1 percent to 1,692, although injuries dropped 5 percent to 3,430, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in its latest civilian casualty report. Overall civilian casualties were down 3 percent.
UNAMA renewed its call on parties to the conflict to increase efforts to protect the civilian population and encourages parties to work towards reaching a peaceful settlement.
Civilian casualty figures remain at record highs despite the unprecedented unilateral ceasefires by Government and Taliban that occurred over the three-day period 15-17 June 2018.
UNAMA attributed 52 per cent of civilian casualties from suicide and complex attacks to Daesh, mainly in Kabul and Nangarhar province. The Taliban were responsible for 40 per cent, the remainder were attributed to unidentified Anti-Government Elements.