Afghanistan: Death toll soars to 68 in suicide bomb attack

At least 68 killed and 165 injured in attacks targeting demonstrators and schools in eastern Nangarhar province.

Medical staff have struggled to treat people wounded by the powerful blast in Nangarhar province [AFP]

The death toll from a suicide bomb attack at a protest gathering in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar on Tuesday has risen to 68, with 165 wounded, a government official said.

The provincial governor’s spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani, issued a statement with a revised casualty total on Wednesday after earlier estimates put the death toll at 32.

Scores of demonstrators had blocked the highway between the provincial capital Jalalabad and a key border crossing with Pakistan when the bomber struck.

The protesters had come from Achin district to demand the removal of a local police commander.

The attack was one of the worst in Afghanistan for months but security officials have warned that similar attacks are likely if crowds gather for campaign rallies ahead of parliamentary elections in October.

“… the explosion happened and I found myself surrounded by blood and flesh,” Zar Khan, one of the injured, told AFP news agency.

Bombing schools

The deadly suicide attack came hours after multiple bombings targeted schools in Jalalabad.

One blast went off at the entrance of Malika Omaira girls’ school in the morning, killing a 14-year-old boy and wounding four other people. It was followed by two explosions in Behsud district, also near two schools.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the suicide attack, as well as the school bombings in Nangarhar.

In a statement, he said that “attacks on civilian facilities, mosques, women, children, are all crimes against humanity”.

The Taliban denied any involvement in the attacks and no other group claimed responsibility for the violence.

Nangarhar has been a main stronghold of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) fighters since early 2015.

Attacks continue

A number of attacks across Afghanistan in recent weeks have killed hundreds of civilians and prominent journalists.

Twin bombings at a sports club in the capital Kabul last Wednesday killed at least 20 people and wounded 70 others. Two journalists – a reporter and cameraman – working for local Tolo News were among the dead.

On Sunday, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives close to a procession commemorating the death of a former anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban commander, Ahmed Shah Massoud, killing at least seven people and wounding 24.

A ceasefire in June between the Taliban and the government – as well as talks between US officials and Taliban representatives in Qatar in July – raised hopes the 17-year conflict could end with negotiations.

However, the country has since seen a rise in deadly attacks that have targeted civilians.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies