Officials: Shelling of Afghan mosque kills 25 during prayers

Dozens of worshippers were gathered inside a mosque in eastern Afghanistan to offer Friday prayers when a mortar round fired by insurgents blasted through the roof, causing it to collapse and killing at least 25 people, provincial officials said on Friday.

Zahir Adil, spokesman for the public health department in Nangarhar Province, said around 50 others were wounded in the attack in the Haskamena district.

He said 23 of the 50 wounded were transferred to Jalalabad, the provincial capital, and the rest of were being treated in the district clinic. "There are children among both the killed and wounded in the attack," Adil said.

Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar, also said the victims included children and that the number of casualties could still rise.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but both the Taliban and the Islamic State group are active in eastern Afghanistan, especially Nangarhar province.

In western Herat province, six civilians including four children were killed when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb, said Jelani Farhad, spokesman for the provincial governor.

Farhad added that five other civilians were wounded in Thursday afternoon's attack in the Zawal district.

The violence comes a day 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 U.N. began keeping statistics.

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 percent. July to September were the deadliest months so far this year.

"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.

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.