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Blast at mosque kills dozens in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan – An explosion killed at least 60 people during Friday prayers at a mosque in eastern Afghanistan, local officials said. It is unclear who started the blast.

The attack in Deh Bala, a small agricultural district in Nangarhar province, caused the roof of the mosque to collapse and injured at least 50 other people, said Mohammad Zahir Adel, public health spokesman in Nangarhar.

Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, said that explosives had states under a podium in the main atrium of the mosque where people prayed before exploding.

The bombing follows what has been several bloody months in Afghanistan. The UN estimated that 1,174 civilians were killed and 3,139 injured from July 1 to September 30, a 42 percent increase from the same period last year, according to a report released on Thursday.

Mr. Adel said people were still trapped in the rubble and that he expected tolls to increase when emergency workers arrived on the scene. Local officials said up to 70 people may have been killed.

No group has yet taken responsibility for the attack. Deh Bala borders much of the rural territory held by the Islamic State project in Afghanistan. Although the group moves to the foothills and the surrounding mountains, the Islamic State's mere presence has made security in the district difficult.

A coordinated military offensive cleansed Islamic State fighters from large parts of Deh Bala in 2018, and the US military has maintained a small base where special forces troops with Afghan commanders in a nearby outpost.

Mr. Khogyani said on Friday that the Americans had sent equipment to help extract the wounded and dead from the mosque.

The United Nations says civilian casualties in Afghanistan caused by the Islamic State have decreased by 50 percent over the first nine months of 2018, but the extremist group has claimed responsibility for some of the deadliest attacks on civilians this year.

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