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.
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.
In August a suicide bomb was killed in a wedding hall in Kabul as many as 80 people, and a truck bombing outside a hospital in Zabul province killed at least 20. In the end, from July to September, the UN said, the Islamic the state responsible for 1,013 civilians injured: 229 dead and 784 wounded.
Since 2015, the United States and Afghanistan have poured resources to eliminate the Islamic State through military operations and air strikes, killing hundreds of its fighters. But the group has nevertheless managed to secure a foothold in eastern Afghanistan with 2,000 to 3,000 fighters spreading to other provinces, with active cells in the capital, Kabul.
Fatima Faizi contributed reporting from Kabul and Zabihullah Ghazi from Nangarhar.