Suicide bomber kills 14 in Afghan city Jalalabad in second deadly attack in a week

Afghan security forces inspect the site of a suicide attack in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on Jan 17, 2016.
Afghan security forces inspect the site of a suicide attack in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on Jan 17, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

JALALABAD, Afghanistan (AFP) - At least 14 people were killed when a suicide bomber struck the home of a prominent politician in Jalalabad on Sunday, officials said, in the second deadly attack in the eastern Afghan city in less than a week.

The Taleban denied responsibility for the bombing, which also left 13 people wounded on the eve of a new round of four-country negotiations aimed at restarting peace talks with the insurgents.

The carnage came during a "jirga", an assembly of tribal leaders, at the home of politician Obaiduallah Shinwari, who escaped unscathed.

"Fourteen people were killed and 13 others injured when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives in the house of Shinwari," said Najibullah Kamawal, the health director of Nangarhar province, of which Jalalabad is the capital.

Ambulances rushed to the scene, which was littered with pieces of human flesh, sandals and charred debris.

Shinwari is a well-known member of Nangarhar's provincial council and his family is said to be actively involved in local politics.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani strongly condemned the attack, warning security forces will go after the culprits with "all its strength".

"When terrorists lose the ability to fight face-to-face with our security forces, then they target public places and kill our innocent people," Ghani said in a statement.

"The government will fight those who shed the blood of our innocent people." The bombing is the latest deadly attack in the city since Wednesday, when Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadists claimed responsibility for a four-hour gun and bomb siege targeting the Pakistani consulate.

All three attackers and seven security forces were killed in the assault, the first major ISIS attack in an Afghan city and on a Pakistani government installation.

The group, which controls territory across Syria and Iraq, is making gradual inroads in Afghanistan, challenging the Taleban on their own turf.

The jihadists have managed to attract disaffected Taleban fighters increasingly lured by the group's signature brutality.

In a sign of their growing reach in Afghanistan, the group has taken to the airwaves with a 90-minute Pashto-language radio show called "Voice of the Caliphate".

The government has said it is trying to block the broadcast, which is beamed from an undisclosed location and aimed at winning new recruits.

The uptick in violence comes amid renewed international efforts to revive peace talks with the Taleban, locked in a tussle for supremacy with ISIS in Afghanistan.

Last week, representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China met in a bid to revive stalled Taleban peace talks, even as the insurgents wage a brazen winter campaign of violence.

The so-called "roadmap" talks were meant to lay the groundwork for direct dialogue between the Afghan government and the Islamists to end the 14-year Taleban insurgency.

The four-country group is set to hold the next round of discussions on Monday in Kabul.