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Afghan Independence day blasts follow wedding massacre

At least 66 people injured in Jalalabad two days after attack on Kabul wedding killed 63

WT24 Desk

A series of bombings has struck restaurants and public squares in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, wounding at least 66 people, officials said, as the country marked the 100th anniversary of its independence, Agencies report.

No group claimed responsibility for the 10 bombs on Monday but both Islamic State and Taliban militants operate in the area.

Isis claimed responsibility for a weekend bomb attack on a wedding reception in the capital, Kabul, that killed 63 people and wounded nearly 200.

The Jalalabad bombs were planted near a market where hundreds of people had congregated after attending independence day events. A senior health official, Fahim Bashari, said at least 66 people were wounded, including 20 children enjoying the public holiday.

Ghulam Mohammad, a shopkeeper selling plants, said his two sons and a nephew were among the injured in one of the blasts.

“Children insisted on being in the shop, as they wanted to celebrate independence day in the market, but they were seriously injured when a bomb exploded,” Mohammad said at a hospital in the city.

Independence Day ceremonies were disrupted in Mehtralam, the capital of the eastern province of Laghman, when militants hit a celebration venue with five rockets, officials said, adding that six civilians were injured.

“The formal ceremony had ended,” said Assadullah Dawlatzai, a spokesman for the provincial governor. “People were being served lunch when the rockets landed. Unfortunately, six civilians were wounded.”

Afghanistan’s 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 Isis. “The Taliban have laid the foundation for such brutal killings.”

In the speech, Ghani did not refer to negotiations between the US and the Taliban on a deal by whichAmerican troops can withdraw in exchange for Taliban security guarantees.

The US also wants a Taliban commitment on power-sharing talks with Ghani’s government and a ceasefire. The Taliban have refused to talk to the government.

But there are concerns among Afghan officials and US national security aides about a US withdrawal, with fears Afghanistan could be plunged into a new civil war that could herald a return of Taliban rule and international militants, including Isis, finding a refuge.

Donald Trump hopes to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan before the 2020 presidential election.

The president 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 behind “very significant” intelligence capabilities. The US troops in Afghanistan train and advise Afghan security forces and conduct counterinsurgency operations.

The Taliban said in an independence day statement they looked 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 19 August 1919.

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