Afghan officials: Suicide bomber kills 9 people, wounds 40

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bombing in Afghanistan’s eastern Logar province late on Thursday killed at least nine people and wounded at least 40, authorities said.

The attack struck in the provincial capital of Pul-e-Alam and targeted a police checkpoint. Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian initially said most of the victims were civilians but later, he said six of the dead were policemen and three were civilians.

Many of the wounded however were civilians, he added. Provincial police spokesman Shahpoor Ahmadzai said the civilian casualties were mainly in cars that had stopped at the checkpoint for a security check.

There were conflicting reports about the casualty figures, with a provincial council chief saying he had reports of as many as 15 deaths. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.

At the hospital where the victims were brought to, witnesses reported seeing several children who had been hurt in the bombing. The witnesses asked their names not be used because of fears of retaliation.

The Taliban promptly denied responsibility for the attack, which came on the eve of the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha and a three-day cease-fire that has been declared for the occasion by the Taliban.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the cease-fire remained on track and was set to go into effect at midnight. He blamed the attack on “those intelligence circles that want the continuation of war in Afghanistan,” without elaborating.

Efforts to get peace talks between the insurgents and the Kabul government underway have stalled after the Taliban and the U.S. signed a deal in February, seen as a blueprint to ending Afghanistan’s decades of war.

The Islamic State group’s affiliate for Afghanistan also operates in the region but did not immediately claim responsibility for the bombing. The militant group has stepped up its attacks lately. The U.S. blamed IS for a brutal attack in May on a maternity hospital in the Afghan capital, Kabul, that killed 24 people, including newborn infants.

Muslims around the world will be celebrating Eid al-Adha or “Feast of the Sacrifice,” for three days, stating Friday. This most important Islamic holiday marks the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim — Abraham to Christians and Jews — to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God.

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