At least nine killed in Afghan mosque explosion: officials

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KHOST, Afghanistan, Nov 23, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – An explosion rocked a mosque
on an Afghan army base during Friday prayers, killing at least nine people,
officials said, in the latest violence to hit the war-torn country.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which
follows a wave of deadly attacks across Afghanistan in recent weeks as
militants step up assaults amid a flurry of diplomatic efforts to end the 17-
year conflict.

Khost provincial governor spokesman Talib Mangal said at least nine people
had been killed and 22 wounded in the explosion in the eastern province
bordering Pakistan.

A spokesman for the First Brigade of the 203 Army Corps, where the mosque
was located, said initial information showed “more than 10” soldiers had been
killed and 15 wounded.

Defence ministry spokesman Ghafoor Ahmad Jawed would only confirm there
had been casualties.

Some of the wounded had been transported to a hospital in the provincial
capital Khost while four military helicopters also had been dispatched to
bring others to Kabul, Jawed said.

It is not clear how many worshippers were inside the mosque at the time of
the explosion or the nature of the blast.

The mosque could accommodate 500 people, brigade spokesman Abdullah told
AFP.

“I was entering the mosque when the blast happened,” said Abdullah, who
like many Afghans uses only one name.

– Week of violence –

It has been a bloody week for Afghanistan after at least 55 people were
killed and 94 wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of
a religious gathering in Kabul.

No militant group has claimed the explosion at the Uranus Wedding Palace,
where hundreds of religious scholars had been marking the Prophet Mohammad’s
birthday.

The attack drew widespread condemnation in Afghanistan and abroad, with
the United Nations describing it as an “atrocity”.

Friday’s explosion comes as Afghan security forces suffer record
casualties, which experts warn have reached unsustainable levels as the
Taliban maintain the upper hand in the war.

Since the start of 2015, when local forces took over from US-led NATO
combat troops to secure the country, nearly 30,000 Afghan soldiers and police
have been killed, President Ashraf Ghani revealed this month — a figure far
higher than anything previously acknowledged.

That is an average of around 20 soldiers killed per day.

Casualty figures for Afghan forces have been kept under wraps since 2017
at the request of Kabul, but NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan
recently told a US watchdog that this summer’s toll was worse than ever.

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