US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Saturday Washington remained committed to peace and stability in Afghanistan as police searched for bodies in the rubble of a mosque in eastern Nangarhar province where bomb blasts killed at least 69 people.
The explosives that went off during Friday prayers were placed inside the mosque in the Jawdara area of the Haska Mena district. On Friday, local officials had reported the number of dead at 62 and around 50 wounded.
“The United States remains committed to peace and stability in Afghanistan, and will continue to fight against terrorism,” Pompeo said in a statement. “We stand by the people of Afghanistan who only want peace and a future free from these abhorrent acts of violence.”
Sohrab Qaderi, a member of Nangarhar’s provincial council, said the mosque, with a capacity of more than 150 worshippers at a time, was full of people when the bombs exploded.
“Bodies of 69 people, including children and elders, have been handed to their relatives,” Qaderi said, adding that more bodies could be lying under the rubble.
No group has claimed responsibility but the government blamed Taliban insurgents, who are fighting to re-impose strict Islamic law after they were ousted from power in 2001 by US-led forces.
Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban, denied the group was responsible. In a tweet, he said that witnesses to the attack said it was a mortar attack by government forces.