FAIZABAD, Afghanistan – A motorcycle-riding suicide bomber attacked a line of people waiting outside a bank Saturday in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least 35 and wounding 125 in an assault the country’s president blamed on the Islamic State group.
The accusation by President Ashraf Ghani, following local media reporting the Islamic State group’s Afghan affiliate claiming the attack, would mark a major escalation in the extremists’ nascent campaign of violence in the country.
While nowhere near as powerful as the Taliban, the affiliate’s ability to strike at will would mark a new threat for the country to contend with as U.S. and NATO forces ended their combat mission at the start of the year.
It also further stretches the Islamic State group’s influence far beyond its self-declared caliphate stretching through a third of Iraq and Syria.
The attack in Jalalabad, the capital of eastern Nangarhar province, targeted a crowd of soldiers and civilians gathered outside the bank to receive their monthly salaries. The blast killed at least 35 people and wounded 125, said Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, a spokesman for the provincial governor.
Hours after the attack, Ghani blamed the Islamic State group for the bombing.
“In the horrific incident in Nangarhar, who took responsibility? The Taliban didn’t claim responsibility. Daesh claimed responsibility for it,” Ghani said, using an Arabic acronym for the group.
Local Afghan media quoted a previously unknown man who identified himself as a spokesman for the Islamic State group’s affiliate in the country, claiming responsibility for the attack. It’s not clear whether Ghani relied on this for his remarks or if he had other intelligence at his disposal.
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