KABUL: At least 10 Afghan soldiers were killed in a mosque on Friday when a suicide bomber detonated explosives during prayers, a spokesman for the province’s governor said.
Residents and one source put the death toll at 26 from the attack in Mandozai district, Khost province, near the border with Pakistan. The mosque was packed with soldiers when the blast happened.
It came days after 55 clerics were killed while marking the birth of Prophet Muhammad in a Kabul hotel.
No group has claimed responsibility for either attack.
The mosque was packed with soldiers when the blast happened.
“The casualties may go up, but so far the number of deaths stand at 10. A helicopter is now evacuating the casualties,” Talib Mangal, a spokesman for the governor of Khost said.
A soldier who was injured in the blast said hundreds of worshippers were inside the mosque at the time of the attack.
This week’s attacks add pressure to the US-backed government, which is grappling with Taliban and Daesh affiliates.
President Ashraf Ghani condemned the bombing, ordering the punishment of those whose negligence resulted in the assault.
Afghan army bases have come under attack from militants, while security force casualties have soared as strikes spread and escalate.
The rising violence comes despite the presence of US-led troops in Afghanistan.
Moreover, Friday’s explosion in Khost 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 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.
US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad expressed hopes in Kabul last Sunday that a peace deal to end the war could be struck before the Afghan presidential election, scheduled for April 20.
His comments underscore an apparent increasing sense of urgency in the White House and among American diplomats for a peace deal to be done quickly.