An explosion has hit a mosque in the Spin Ghar area of Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan during Friday prayers, killing at least three people and wounding 15 others, according to residents and Taliban officials.
A doctor at the local hospital told AFP news agency that at least three people have been killed. “So far three killed, 15 wounded,” the doctor said. Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the toll.
One of the witnesses, whose uncle was injured in the attack, told Al Jazeera he saw at least 15 injured bodies, including the Imam, who was leading the prayer. He said the explosion took place near where the Imam himself was standing in the crowded mosque.
Earlier, Qari Hanif, the government spokesman for Nangarhar Province, told the The Associated Press news agency that the explosion appeared to be caused by a bomb planted inside the mosque.
Atal Shinwari, a resident of the area, told the Reuters news agency the blast occurred at about 1:30pm local time (09:00 GMT) when explosives apparently located in the interior of the mosque detonated.
Walli Mohammed, a local elder and activist, told AFP the bomb appeared to have been hidden in a loudspeaker. When the speaker was switched on to sound the azan – the call to begin the prayer – the device detonated, he said.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K) – an affiliate of the ISIL (ISIS) armed group – has claimed responsibility for a series of bloody attacks in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s return to power in August.
At least 19 people were killed and more than 50 injured in an ISKP attack on a military hospital in Kabul in early November.
ISKP, which emerged in Nangarhar province, has particularly targeted mosques used by the ethnic minority Hazara community.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has dismissed the group, which was recognised by the group’s central leadership in 2015, as “not a great threat”.
The security challenge comes as the United Nations has repeatedly warned that Afghanistan is on the brink of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with more than half the country facing “acute” food shortages.
Around 3.2 million children are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in Afghanistan by the end of this year, with 1 million of them at risk of dying as temperatures drop, a World Health Organization spokesperson said on Friday.