Taliban say 2 died in Friday explosion at Kabul cricket game

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Taliban on Saturday raised the casualty toll from a hand grenade explosion during a cricket game in the capital of Kabul the previous day, saying two civilians at the stadium died from the blast.

No one has so far claimed responsibility for the explosion but the blame is likely to fall on militants from the Islamic State group — the Taliban’s chief rivals since they took over the country a year ago as U.S. and NATO forces pulled out of Afghanistan after 20 years of war.

Previously, 13 people were reported wounded in the Friday afternoon blast at the International Cricket Stadium in Kabul, where several hundred people had gathered to watch the match.

At the time, the Italian-run Emergency Hospital in Kabul had confirmed on Twitter that 12 of the wounded were hospitalized while one other patient was treated and discharged.

On Saturday, the Taliban-appointed Kabul police spokesman, Khalid Zadran, said that two people had died. It wasn’t immediately clear if the two had died instantly or later, in hospital.

The game, between cricket teams Band-e-Amir Dragons and Pamir Zalmi, was briefly halted due to the explosion but later continued. The match was part of the domestic T20 Shpageza Cricket league games held every year. Cricket is a hugely popular sport in Afghanistan.

Since the Taliban takeover last August, the Islamic State group’s regional affiliate — known as the Islamic State in Khorasan Province — has claimed attacks in Kabul and other parts of the country.

The IS affiliate, which has been operating in Afghanistan since 2014, is seen as the greatest security challenge facing the country’s new rulers. The Taliban have launched sweeping crackdowns against IS, which has a foothold in eastern Nangarhar province.

Friday’s attack was widely condemned, including by Ramiz Alakbarov, the deputy at the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, who was at the stadium at the time of the attack but was unharmed. He was to address the Afghan cricket association.

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