‘No possible justification’ for Nangarhar mosque attack – UN envoy

20 Oct 2019

‘No possible justification’ for Nangarhar mosque attack – UN envoy

KABUL - The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemns the attack that took place Friday at a mosque in Nangarhar’s Deh Balah district, killing and injuring more than 100 civilians, among them many children.

On 18 October, explosives during Friday prayers caused scores of civilian casualties and the destruction of the village mosque of Deh Balah’s Jawdara village. Initial findings of UNAMA’s Human Rights team indicate that at least 63 civilians were killed and 46 civilians sustained injuries. Among them were many children who were killed and injured.

“This senseless and nefarious attack targeting civilians has no possible justification,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan. “Those who are responsible for enabling this attack must be brought to justice and held to account.”

International humanitarian law prohibits deliberate attacks against civilians and civilian property, and gives places of worship special protection from attack.

“These brutal and senseless attacks against people at prayer are atrocities,” said Yamamoto, who is also head of UNAMA. “Such attacks at congregations and places of worship may amount to war crimes.”

In UNAMA’s recently released quarterly report on the protection of civilians, covering the nine-month period of January to September 2019, the combined use of suicide and non-suicide IEDs was the leading cause of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, making up 42 per cent of the overall total. In July, August and September 2019, civilian casualties from suicide and non-suicide IEDs increased by 72 per cent in comparison to the same time period in 2018.

The United Nations continues to stand with all Afghans in solidarity and remains committed to an Afghan-led peace process that will end the ongoing war and enable the government to allocate more resources to protect all its citizens from such atrocities.

“At a time when the Afghan people are looking toward much-needed peace, we must not allow such attacks to deter our collective resolve to make progress on ending the conflict,” said Yamamoto.

Although mosques have a protected status under international humanitarian law, in Afghanistan they not only have been the location of atrocities but also have been the specific target of attacks.

In 2018, attacks targeting places of worship, religious leaders and worshippers caused 453 civilian casualties (156 killed and 297 injured), similar to the extreme high civilian-casualty levels of such attacks in 2017, resulting in 499 civilian casualties (202 killed and 297 injured).

UNAMA expresses its condolences to the loved ones of those killed in the attack and wishes a full and speedy recovery to those injured.