Blasts hit Afghan city Jalalabad on independence day celebrations

At least 66 wounded in as many as 10 explosions in Jalalabad as country marks 100th anniversary of its independence.

Afghan security forces arrive at the side of a blast in Jalalabad, Afghanistan
Afghan security forces arrive at the side of a blast in Jalalabad [Parwiz/Reuters]

Scores of people, including children, have been wounded after a series of explosions in restaurants and public squares hit the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, as the country marked the 100th anniversary of its independence from British rule.

Noor Ahmad Habibi, a deputy spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, said on Monday at least 66 people were wounded in as many as 10 blasts reported in and around the city.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

“We came to the city to celebrate and were headed to the main square when the bomb went off. I got injured and then someone brought me to the hospital,” Walid, 17, from Pachir Agaam district in Jalalabad, told Al Jazeera.

“It was supposed to be a happy day and they come and kill people. They brought us sorrow on a day where people were supposed to be happy.”

The blasts followed a bomb attack over the weekend on a wedding reception in the capital, Kabul, in which at least 63 people were killed and nearly 200 wounded.

That attack was claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group.

Marking independence day

Extensive celebrations were planned throughout Afghanistan on Monday, with $4.8m allocated by the government to be spent on the festivities in a June presidential decree.

But in Kabul, independence day events were curtailed out of respect for those who died in Saturday’s attack.

The main event to coincide with the reopening of Darulaman Palace, which was heavily damaged during the civil war in the 1990s, was postponed as well.

“There is still concern over the security in light of Saturday night,” Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Bellis, reporting from the capital, said.

“A lot of people are staying home just out of caution instead of celebrating in large groups.”

In an independence day address, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called on the international community to stand with Afghanistan to eradicate the fighters’ “nests”.

“Our fight against the Daesh will continue,” he said, referring to ISIL.

‘I opened my eyes at hospital’

In Jalalabad, where the streets were covered in posters and cars were draped in flags, many had painted their faces with the colours of the Afghan flag: black, red and green.

Young Afghans, including children, were seen dancing to national songs.

“We all came … to celebrate independence. We bought loud speakers to play national music, and while we were all dancing, the first bomb went off,” Zahir Jan, a Jalalabad resident, told Al Jazeera.

“I don’t know what happened next but I opened my eyes at the hospital. Eight of my friends are injured.”

Najibullah, 28, got a phone call from his friends that his nine-year-old nephew was wounded in one of the blasts.

“I rushed to the hospital when I heard about my nephews. I saw five to six children injured as well at the hospital,” he told Al Jazeera.

The latest incidents come as the United States and the Taliban have been holding regular meetings in Qatar since October to try to end the country’s 18-year conflict.

A potential agreement would see the US withdraw its approximately 14,000 soldiers from Afghanistan in exchange for Taliban security guarantees.

In an independence day statement, the Taliban said it was looking forward to the departure of all foreign forces.

“The day approaches closer when these invaders shall completely leave our country, akin to the British and Soviets before them,” it said.

While never part of the British empire, Afghanistan gained complete independence from Britain on August 19, 1919.

Additional reporting by Mohsin Khan Momand and Mohammed Harun Arsalai in Jalalabad

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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