Afghan doctors assist civilians wounded by a suicide bomber in Paktika province on Tuesday. Uncredited/AP
At least 89 people were killed Tuesday by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. It was the deadliest attack on civilians in that country for several years.
The attack occurred near a busy market and mosque in Urgun, a town in the eastern province of Paktika. In addition to the dead, 42 people were injured, according to the Defense Ministry.
“A man in a Toyota SUV was identified by police as a potential attacker, but when they ordered him to stop for checks, he set off the bomb,” Nasar Ahmad, the deputy provincial police chief, told the Guardian, a British newspaper.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. The Taliban sent a statement to media denying involvement, saying they “strongly condemn attacks on local people.”
The bombing comes at an anxious time for Afghanistan. Last weekend, Secretary of State John Kerry helped broker a deal between the two Afghan presidential contenders, who have been arguing over the results of last month’s runoff election. But there are signs that the deal may yet come unraveled.
Last week, the United Nations issued a report saying the number of civilian casualties in the country had increased by 24 percent during the first half of the year, reaching levels not seen since 2009.
There are now near-daily attacks in the country. In two incidents Tuesday that were separate from the Paktika blast, a roadside bomb in eastern Kabul killed two passengers in a minivan carrying employees of the media office of the presidential palace, while seven police officers and six border guards were killed by Taliban insurgents at the Pakistani border in Khost province, The Associated Press reports.
The Paktika blast was the deadliest suicide bombing in the country at least since a 2008 attack at an outdoor dog fighting competition.
“There was blood everywhere, and we could see hundreds of people shouting and crying, including women and children,” an eyewitness told The New York Times. “The entire area seems like a graveyard with fresh blood on it.”