A suicide bomber in Afghanistan’s eastern city of Jalalabad killed at least 33 people and injured more than 100 after setting off a blast outside a bank where government workers collect salaries, the city’s police chief has said.
The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, blamed militants, without giving further details. If true, it would be the first such major attack carried out by the group in Afghanistan, marking a significant step in its expansion into south Asia.
Up until now militants claiming allegiance to Isis in have been widely identified as former Taliban fighters disillusioned with their leadership. The Taliban itself condemned Saturday’s attack as “evil”.
The explosion smashed windows and sent debris flying across a tree-lined street, filling the air with smoke and dust.
“It was a suicide attack,” police chief Fazel Ahmad Sherzad told a press conference. He added that officials were investigating witness reports of a second explosion after people had rushed to the area to help the wounded.
Police said a later blast that shook Jalalabad was a controlled detonation after experts discovered a further bomb close to the scene of the initial explosion.
Local media said a former spokesman for the Pakistani had claimed responsibility on behalf of Isis in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Islamist militants of various hues already hold sway across unsettled and impoverished areas of south Asia, but Isis has started to draw support from younger fighters in the region, impressed by its rapid capture of territory in Syria and Iraq.
Ghani visited the US last month and warned that Isis posed a “terrible threat” to his country.
Taliban insurgents denied responsibility and did not comment on the alleged Isis link. The militants, who were ousted from power by a US-led invasion in 2001, rarely claim attacks that kill large groups of civilians, saying they target foreigners or the Afghan military and government.
“It was an evil act. We strongly condemn it,” a Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told Reuters.