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JALALABAD, Afghanistan (UPDATED) – At least 13 people were killed and 39 injured in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Kunar on Saturday, February 27, during an attack targeting a tribal chief, officials said.
The incident occurred at 9:30 am in Asadabad, the provincial capital of restive Kunar, when a suicide bomber riding a motorcycle detonated explosives in a market.
Ghani Mosamem, a spokesman for Kunar’s governor, confirmed that 13 people were killed, including local tribal chief Haji Khan Jan, and 39 injured in the attack.
Earlier on Saturday, Sayed Maqsood Pacha, the deputy provincial police chief, confirmed that Haji Khan Jan was the intended target of Saturday’s attack.
Jan was a prominent pro-government figure in Kunar and was renowned for participating in an uprising targeting Taliban insurgents.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast, but Taliban militants, who have been waging a 14 year-long bloody insurgency, have been blamed for similar attacks in the past.
AFP was unable to reach the Taliban’s spokesman for comment.
Mohammad Safi, a member of the provincial council, told Agence France-Presse that Jan had received myriad threats from armed insurgents in the past, but authorities did not provide him with any additional security.
Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani strongly condemned the attack, labelling the bombing a “major crime which is not allowed in any religion or law”.
“The Afghan government will not make peace with those who are targeting and killing ordinary people,” the president added in a statement.
Saturday’s attack comes ahead of scheduled talks between the government and Taliban representatives that are set to kick off during the first week of March in Pakistan.
Delegates from Afghanistan, China, the US and Pakistan met in the Kabul last week for a fourth round of talks aimed at forming a path back to the nascent peace process, which was interrupted by last summer’s announcement that Taliban leader Mullah Omar had died.
Kunar is a restive and remote province that shares a long border with neighboring Pakistan – which the Afghan government has accused in the past of harboring Taliban militants. – Rappler.com