Explosions in Afghanistan wound dozens on 100th Independence Day
A series of bombings struck restaurants and public squares on Monday in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, wounding at least 34 people, officials said, as the country marked the 100th anniversary of its independence.
No group claimed responsibility for the 10 bombs but both, the militant Islamic State (IS) group and the Afghan Taliban militants operate in the area.
IS claimed responsibility for a weekend bomb attack on a wedding reception in the capital, Kabul, in which 63 people were killed and nearly 200 wounded.
The Jalalabad bombs were planted near a market where hundreds of people had congregated after attending Independence Day events. Senior health official Fahim Bashari said at least 34 people were wounded.
President Ashraf Ghani, in an Independence Day address in Kabul, called on the international community to stand with Afghanistan to eradicate the militants’ “nests”.
“Our fight against the Daesh will continue,” he said, referring to IS.
Ghani did not refer in his speech to negotiations between the United States and the Afghan Taliban on a deal by which US troops can withdraw in exchange for Taliban security guarantees.
The US also wants a commitment from the Afghan Taliban on power-sharing talks with Ghani’s government and a ceasefire. The Afghan Taliban have refused to talk to the government.
But there are concerns among Afghan officials and US national security aides about a withdrawal, with fears that Afghanistan could be plunged into a new civil war that could herald a return of Taliban rule and international militants, including IS, finding a refuge.
US President Donald Trump is hoping to withdraw all of America’s troops from Afghanistan before the 2020 presidential election.
Trump on Sunday called the Kabul bomb attack horrible and expressed optimism about the talks.
He said the US would seek to get troop levels below 13,000 but leave “very significant” intelligence capabilities behind.
The US troops in Afghanistan train and advise Afghan security forces and conduct counterinsurgency operations.
The Afghan Taliban said in an Independence Day statement they were looking forward to the departure of all foreign forces.
“The day approaches closer when these invaders shall completely leave our country, akin to the British and Soviets before them,” they said.
While never part of the British empire, Afghanistan gained complete independence from Britain on Aug 19, 1919.
Independence Day ceremonies in Kabul were curtailed out of respect for those who died in the Saturday night bomb, the government said.