KABUL – At least 15 civilians were killed and 20 others injured following a blast in Afghanistan, an official confirmed.
According to Anadolu Agency quoting the country’s Interior Ministry, the incident took place in the restive central Ghazni province on Friday afternoon.
Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said in a statement that a motorcycle with a carriage carrier packed with explosives exploded at the courtyard of a house in Gilan district causing the casualties.
A gathering for the recitation of the Quran was underway at the time of the attack.
There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
Situated at a distance of less than 150 kilometers (93 miles) from capital Kabul, the city of Ghazni, fell twice to the Taliban briefly in the past three years.
The provincial governor’s spokesman, Wahidullah Jumazada, told Anadolu Agency most of the victims are children between the ages of 8 and 18. He said the children had gathered around the motorcycle when it exploded. He feared the death toll could rise.
In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahed said that the blast was caused by an unexploded mortar shell the children wished to sell as scrap.
Mujahed also expressed grief over the explosion, it added.
Earlier on Thursday, Deborah Lyons, the UN secretary general’s special representative for Afghanistan, said civilian casualties caused by improvised explosive devices surged by over 60 per cent in the past two months.
She said in the third quarter of 2020, child casualties rose by 25 per cent, while attacks against schools in the same period increased four-fold.
This comes as peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, paused for at least three weeks.
The talks are aimed at ending the nearly two-decade-long conflict following a landmark peace deal between the US and the Taliban inked earlier in February that calls for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan.