Attaullah Khogyani, the spokesman for Nangahar’s provincial governor, said 62 people had been confirmed dead.
The attack comes as the conflict in Afghanistan is killing and injuring record numbers of civilians. The Taliban and the U.S.-backed Afghan government have stepped up operations, and the Islamic State group in Afghanistan has carried out deadly high-profile attacks, including the bombing of a Kabul wedding hall that killed 63 in August.
No group asserted responsibility for the mosque attack Friday, and the Taliban condemned it, calling it a “major crime.” The Taliban said the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan or the Afghan government was to blame for the blast, according to a statement released to media.
The Islamic State had not issued a statement on the attack, but the group has a strong presence near the district where the attack occurred, in Deh Bala, a district also known as Haska Mena in Nangahar.
Afghan officials gave conflicting reports regarding the source of the blast. Khogyani said two bombs were planted inside the mosque and detonated almost simultaneously, but Afghan presidential spokesman Sediq Seddiqi said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber and strongly condemned it in a tweet. Seddiqi blamed “the Taliban and their partners” who “continue to target civilians in time of worship.”
A lawmaker from the area, Sayema Khogyani, said that the roof of the mosque collapsed from the force of the blast and that rescue crews were struggling to reach survivors beneath the rubble. Urahman, the tribal chief, said villagers had dug more than 60 graves for the dead, but the number of casualties was so great that many villagers were unable to bury their loved ones before sunset.
“It is a horrific incident. Even an animal would not resort to such an act,” Urahman said. “People are in shock and angry.”
Attacks using explosives have caused more than a quarter of all civilian deaths in Afghanistan this year, according to a U.N. report released Thursday. The report said the attacks have killed 647 and wounded 2,796 since January.
Overall, the conflict in Afghanistan has killed 2,563 civilians and wounded 5,676 since January, according to the report. Most of the civilians killed this year died in Taliban attacks, according to the report.
The Islamic State has significantly fewer fighters in Afghanistan than the Taliban, but it is considered the bigger terrorist threat. The Islamic State and the Taliban are rivals, and in some parts of the country, the two groups clash.
Afghanistan’s 18-year war has intensified in recent months amid peace talks that recently collapsed and in the lead-up to the country’s presidential election.