Suicide bomb attack kills 11, injures 13 in eastern Afghanistan

An Afghan victim receiving medical treatment in hospital after a suicide bomb attack in Jalalabad on Thursday. There was at least one child among the fatalities, while three other minors were wounded.
An Afghan victim receiving medical treatment in hospital after a suicide bomb attack in Jalalabad on Thursday. There was at least one child among the fatalities, while three other minors were wounded.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

JALALABAD • A suicide bomber targeted a police checkpoint in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, killing at least 11 people and wounding 13 others, an official said.

The Afghan arm of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group claimed responsibility for the Thursday attack, which was committed by an assailant on foot, said a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province.

There was at least one child among the fatalities, while three other minors were wounded.

Last month, three blasts in rapid succession in the centre of Jalalabad left three people dead and 20 wounded.

The area around Jalalabad is home to fighters from both the Taleban and the ISIS group's Afghan affiliate.

Afghan government and United States military officials have said they will step up air strikes and operations to eliminate the militants, who first emerged in Nangarhar in 2015.

Until then, this city near the border with Pakistan had largely been spared from attacks and fighting.

However, in March, at least 16 civilians were killed in a suicide bombing followed by gunfire targeting a construction company near the city's airport. The Taleban said it was not behind that attack.

A wave of violence across Afghanistan in recent weeks has claimed the lives of dozens of civilians and security forces.

After 18 years of conflict, the Taleban is in negotiations with US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad for some sort of peace settlement.

A resolution still seems far off, with the two sides struggling to agree on several key points.

Mr Khalilzad is in the country now to meet political leaders and members of civil society in the hope of launching intra-Afghan talks with the Taleban.

The European Union envoy to Afghanistan, Mr Roland Kobia, is also in the country to support the process.

In a gesture of goodwill, the Afghan government announced on Thursday that it has released 490 Taleban prisoners who are ill or have less than a year left to serve.

They are among 887 prisoners President Ashraf Ghani promised to free early this month as he marked the end of the Ramadan fasting month.

Mr Khalilzad is expected to travel to Qatar in the coming days for a new round of talks with the Taleban.

The goal of the negotiations is to set a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops in exchange for a Taleban pledge to keep the country from being used as a staging ground for terror attacks.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2019, with the headline 'Suicide bomb attack kills 11, injures 13 in eastern Afghanistan'. Print Edition | Subscribe