In what appears to be the first major attack by the Islamic State in Afghanistan, a suicide bomber killed 33 people and wounded another 115 outside a bank in Jalalabad city of the eastern Nangarhar province on Saturday. The deadly bombing prompted immediate condemnation from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who said terrorism was a common enemy of both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the responsibility of the attack was claimed by the IS – the ultra-radical terrorist outfit that has set up a self-styled caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq – without offering details. A
person purporting to be an IS spokesman called AFP to tell the group was behind the bombing. An online posting allegedly from the IS, also known by its Arabic acronym Da’ish, made the same claim, which could not be immediately verified.
Ghani’s government has repeatedly raised the ominous prospect of IS making inroads into Afghanistan, though the group has never formally acknowledged having a presence in Afghanistan. But the Taliban have seen defections to the militant group in recent months, with some self-styled IS insurgents voicing their disaffection with Mullah Omar, who has not been seen since 2001.
The scene of Saturday’s bombing, the deadliest attack since November, showed the gruesome scale of the carnage with victims lying in pools of blood and body parts scattered across the ground outside the state-run Kabul Bank. Most of the people there were drawing their salaries.
“Who has claimed responsibility for the horrific attack in Nangarhar today? The Taliban did not claim responsibility for the attack, Da’ish claimed responsibility,” Ghani said. He strongly condemned the suicide attack, in which children were also killed, his office said in a statement.
“Carrying out terrorist attacks in cities and public places are the most cowardly acts of terror by terrorists targeting innocent civilians.”
The Afghan interior ministry said two more explosives-laden motorcycles were found in Jalalabad and destroyed with controlled detonations.
Haroon Mir, a Kabul-based political analyst, said the announcement of IS was alarming, if verified, and would mean that Afghanistan should prepare for a bloody summer. “We have been seeing Taliban commanders switching allegiance to the IS and raising their black flag… but the IS presence has never been confidently confirmed and we still have to be cautious about claims made in the name of IS.”
PM Nawaz condemns blast
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the Jalalabad bombing and offered condolences on the death of innocent Afghans. In a statement, he said terrorism was a common enemy of both the countries, which were now taking joint steps to eradicate this menace.
The premier said such violent acts would not weaken the two countries’ resolve to take action against terrorists till the last of them was eliminated.
“Terrorism will soon be wiped out of this region, ushering in an era of peace, stability and prosperity to the immense benefit of the people living here.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2015.