KABUL/JALALABAD: A suicide attack in Afghanistan on Tuesday killed at least 12 people and ignited a nearby petrol station, officials said, with witnesses describing screaming victims “swallowed” by flames in the latest deadly violence to hit the country.
The bomber was targeting Afghan security forces when he blew himself up in the eastern city of Jalalabad, officials said.
Ten civilians were among the dead and least five people were wounded in the blast, the provincial governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said.
“I saw three people who had caught fire and were screaming,” Ibrahim, who was sitting inside his shop at the time of the attack, said.
“As I ran to help them, the fire swallowed them. I couldn’t help them and I ran to save myself.” Some of the victims were brought to hospital with severe burns, health director Najibullah Kamawal said, confirming the casualty toll.
“I saw a big ball of fire that threw people away. The people were burning,” Esmatullah, who witnessed the incident, said.
Haji Ali Khan said he counted at least eight cars alight and “seven people who had been burned in the fire”.
Tolo News posted a video online showing several burned-out vehicles and gutted shops purportedly at the scene of the attack.
The militant Islamic State group claimed the attack via its Amaq propaganda agency — the latest carried out by the extremists in restive Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan.Violence is expected to continue ahead of Afghanistan’s long-delayed legislative elections on October 20 that militants have vowed to disrupt.
Afghan security forces, already struggling to beat back the Taliban and IS on the battlefield, will be responsible for protecting polling stations, many of which will be located in schools.
OIC hosts Afghan conference, Taliban pledge to continue jihad
The Saudi-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation hosted a two-day conference to encourage peace talks to end Afghanistan’s nearly 17-year war.
The OIC, a 57-nation organisation based in Jeddah, began the summit on Tuesday.
The gathering includes senior religious scholars who will “discuss ways of contributing to the efforts of achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan,” the organisation said.
Shah Hussain Murtazavi, a deputy spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, welcomed the conference.
The Taliban, meanwhile, criticised the event and said they expect it will take the side of the American “invaders.” A statement from the insurgent group pledged to continue jihad, or holy war, against US and other foreign troops in Afghanistan, saying that the fight “is a must.”
Ghani has pushed for peace talks with the Taliban. The insurgents say they want to negotiate directly with the US, which invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to topple Kabul’s Taliban government that harboured Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2018