Blast kills at least 34 in Afghan city
Bank bombing may be the first instance of a large, coordinated Islamic State-led attack in the country.
KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bombing outside a crowded bank has left at least 34 people dead and more than 120 wounded in eastern Afghanistan.
If claims by the extremist group are corroborated, the explosion Saturday may be the first instance of a large, coordinated Islamic Stateled attack in the country.
In the days leading up to their state visit to Washington in March, high-level officials in the government of President Ashraf Ghani had repeatedly warned that Islamic State militants were present in Afghanistan but not yet ready to carry out an assault.
At the time of the attack, dozens of people — mainly government workers and military officials collecting their salaries — were waiting outside the bank branch in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province.
Fazel Ahmad Sherzad, Jalalabad city police chief, said at a news conference that an investigation was still underway.
“It was a suicide attack.… It is early to say what kind of suicide bomber” committed the act, Sherzad said.
A group claiming to belong to Islamic State released its own account of the attack.
Shahidullah Shahid, who said he is a spokesman for the group in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility. Images circulated on social media accounts claiming to be allied with Islamic State purported to show the bomber standing in front of a black flag associated with the Sunni extremist group that has seized large swaths of Syria and Iraq.
In a statement, Ghani, who was on his way to Badakhshan in the extreme northeast where last week 23 members of the Afghan army died in a series of attacks, condemned the Jalalabad bombing.
Ghani called it a “cowardly and heinous terrorist attack on civilians.”
In a statement to the Reuters news agency, a Taliban spokesman said, “It was an evil act. We strongly condemn it.”
Meanwhile, in Kabul on Saturday, the parliament approved 16 candidates to head ministries and to other high-level posts. The lawmakers, in their second attempt in four months to approve a complete Cabinet, failed to provide a leader for the Defense Ministry. But they did select three more women to help run the government, heading the ministries of women’s affairs; higher education; and labor, social affairs, martyrs and the disabled.
SOME OF the more than 120 people injured when a suicide bomber attacked in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.