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Suicide Attack Kills at Least 13 in Afghanistan

A suicide bomber struck the home of an important tribal elder in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Sunday morning, killing at least 13 people, a government official said. It was the latest attack in the increasingly volatile province of Nangarhar.

The attacker, who at midafternoon had not yet been identified, targeted the home of Malik Usman Shinwari, the father of two prominent government officials, said Attaullah Khogeyanai, a spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial governor. Mr. Shinwari was injured in the attack, but his wounds did not appear to be life-threatening, according to people who were present. He was taken by helicopter to Kabul, the Afghan capital, for treatment.

Najeebullah Kamawal, head of the Nangarhar public health directorate, said that at least 14 civilians had been wounded and that three of them were in critical condition.

The attack took place as Mr. Shinwari and a large number of visitors were celebrating the safe return of another of his sons, who had recently been released from Taliban captivity. The suicide bomber infiltrated the gathering and detonated his explosives but fell short of his apparent intended victims, the people who were at the scene said. Mr. Shinwari's sons Obaidullah, a provincial council member, and Hameedullah, a district mayor, were unharmed, the provincial governor's office said.

Jalalabad, about 75 miles east of Kabul, is the capital of Nangarhar, a province bordering Pakistan that has become increasingly violent since the departure of American and NATO combat troops at the end of 2014. Besides having to contend with Al Qaeda and a continuing Taliban offensive, Nangarhar is home to the nascent Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack on Sunday. The Taliban denied any link to it, with a spokesman for the group, Zabiullah Mujahid, saying on his Twitter account that "the explosion in a house in Jalalabad has no connection to" the militants.

Islamic State militants last week claimed responsibility for an attack near the Pakistani Consulate in Jalalabad that killed at least seven members of the Afghan security forces. In that assault, a suicide bomber targeted a police vehicle and was followed by gunmen in police uniforms, who holed up in a guesthouse near the consulate and fought government forces.

The United States on Thursday designated the Islamic State affiliate, a splinter group mostly made up of former Afghan and Pakistani Taliban members, as a foreign terrorist organization. Gen. John Campbell, the head of United States and NATO troops in Afghanistan, has warned that the Islamic State is trying to establish a base in Jalalabad.

The militant activity has made it increasingly dangerous to travel the road between Kabul and Jalalabad, a key artery linking Kabul with points in Pakistan. The United Nations classifies the stretch between the two cities as "inaccessible."

The violence in Nangarhar is just one of the security threats facing the government of the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani. In the southern province of Helmand, government troops, aided by United States Special Forces, have been fighting for months to contain a Taliban offensive that threatens to completely wrest the region from state control.

[Source: By David Jolly, The New York Times, Kabul, 17Jan16]

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small logoThis document has been published on 18Jan16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.