Paktia police chief said they have launched an investigation into the attack but that no group has yet claimed responsibility.
Govt Criticized Over Paktia Mosque Explosions
The victims of the deadly twin explosions inside a mosque in Paktia’s capital city, Gardez, were laid to rest on Friday in Khwaja Hassan village.
Angry relatives slammed government for what they said was the inability of security agencies to prevent such an incident or to even issue warnings to the public to avoid large gatherings.
Khwaja Hassan, is a small village east of Gardez City, which is about 130 kilometers south of Kabul.
Sahib-ul-Zaman Mosque was targeted by two suicide bombers at around 1:20pm on Friday afternoon during Friday prayers. A few hundred worshippers were in the mosque at the time of the explosions.
Angry relatives questioned government’s ability to keep the people safe and asked how insurgents breach secure areas such as mosques?
“Who should we complain to? No one was here to help us. There were no ambulances. This is not a government, this is a corrupt government,” one resident said.
“Government is involved in this attack. Hours have passed since the incident but no government official has announced their support. Government has not paid any attention to our safety and security,” a resident said.
The attackers first opened fire on two security guards outside the mosque and then entered the building; they then used hand grenades and later detonated their explosive vests, officials explained on Friday.
Although officials have put the death toll at 34, eyewitnesses and sources say the death toll was much higher.
“The nation and media should judge right now. We fought with attackers for 30 to 40 minutes inside the mosque but no one came to help us,” said Sherin, a tribal elder in Paktia.
“We ask government to secure all mosques across Afghanistan and prevent such deadly attacks,” said Haidar a resident of the area.
Paktia Police Chief Brigadier General Raz Mohammad Mandozai said they have started an investigation into the deadly incident.
“Past experiences have shown that such attacks on mosques are carried out by Daesh. Investigations will show whether Daesh is involved in the attack or not,” said Mandozai.
The attack was widely condemned by government and international organizations.
President Ashraf Ghani said “the incident was inhuman and such criminal acts by terrorists among the people cannot create religious divisions, because Afghanistan is exemplary in Islamic unity and religious affiliation in the Islamic countries, and this will remain unchanged forever”.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also issued a statement and condemned the attack – as did former president Hamid Karzai.