International News

15 dead in suicide attack at former governor’s funeral in Afghanistan: officials

A suicide attacker blew himself up at a funeral in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing at least 15 mourners and wounding another 14, officials said, capping a deadly year for civilians.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Taliban and Islamic State militants have stepped up assaults in recent months, with ordinary Afghans bearing the brunt of the violence.
“The death toll of the attack targeting a funeral ceremony in Behsud district of Nangarhar has increased to 15,” Nangarhar governor spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP.
Another 14 were wounded. All the casualties were civilians.
An earlier statement from the governor’s office said 12 people had been killed in the attack near the provincial capital Jalalabad.
The bomber struck during the funeral ceremony for a former governor of Haska Mina district who died recently of natural causes, the statement said.
Provincial health director Najib Kamawal confirmed the toll.
Photos posted on Twitter and Facebook purportedly of the scene showed pools of blood, clothes and shoes scattered on the ground.
Other photos showed bodies lying in blood and a plume of black smoke rising into the sky. Terrified mourners, mostly elderly men, could be seen running from the scene.
While the Taliban is still responsible for the majority of attacks and casualties across Afghanistan, IS militants have been on a rampage this month.
The incident in Nangarhar, a restive province bordering Pakistan and a stronghold for IS, comes days after the group claimed an assault on a Shiite cultural centre in Kabul that left 41 people dead and more than 80 wounded.
That followed a Christmas Day attack, also claimed by IS, near an Afghan intelligence agency compound in the Afghan capital that left six civilians dead.
On December 18, militants from the group stormed an intelligence training compound in Kabul, triggering an intense gunfight with police, two of whom were wounded.
The Middle Eastern jihadist outfit has gained ground in Afghanistan since it first appeared in the region in 2015, and has scaled up its attacks in Kabul and elsewhere, including on security installations and the country’s Shiite minority.
The latest news comes at the end of a particularly deadly year for Afghans, with the number of civilian casualties on track to be one of the highest on record since the US invasion in 2001.
More than 8,000 civilians were killed or wounded in conflict-related violence in the first nine months of this year, according to data compiled by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
Last year’s civilian casualty toll of 11,418 was the highest for a single year since the UN began systematically documenting civilian deaths and injuries in 2009.