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Bombings mar Independence Day celebrations in Jalalabad



Volunteers carry an injured man on a stretcher to a hospital, following multiple bombings in Jalalabad on August 19. [Noorullah Shirzada/AFP]

JALALABAD -- Scores of Afghans including children were wounded Monday (August 19) after a series of explosions shook the city of Jalalabad amid Independence day celebrations.

As many as 10 blasts were reported in and around the city in Nangarhar Province, authorities said, and casualty numbers rose as the day wore on.

"The explosions were caused by IEDs in different parts of the city and as groups of people were celebrating Independence Day," Nangarhar governor's spokesman Ataullah Khogyani said, referring to improvised explosive devices.


A volunteer carries an injured boy to a hospital after multiple bombings rocked Jalalabad, Nangarhar Province, August 19. [Noorullah Shirzada/AFP]

Jalalabad is the scene of frequent bombings, and the surrounding terrain is home to both Taliban fighters and the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).

At least 52 people were wounded, Khogyani said. Zaher Adel, a spokesman for a local hospital, said 66 wounded people had been brought in. An AFP correspondent saw children among the victims.

This year's August 19 celebrations mark 100 years of Afghan independence from British influence.

The day was supposed to be one of national pride and unity but was overshadowed by an ISIS suicide attack Saturday (August 17) on a crowded Kabul wedding hall that killed at least 63 people.

In Kabul, locals took to the streets to wave the black-red-and-green Afghan flag, but several public events to commemorate the date were scrapped as Kabul mourns and to forestall a fresh attack.

"We postponed the celebrations to honour the victims, but we will definitely take revenge for our people," President Ashraf Ghani said.

"We will avenge the blood of our people, every drop of it," he said.

'Good discussions' with Taliban

The attacks came as the United States and the Taliban are in final negotiations for direct talks between the Afghan government and the militants.

US President Donald Trump on Sunday (August 18) hailed progress in negotiations on an Afghanistan peace deal, saying that talks with both the Taliban and the Afghan government are going well.

"We're having very good discussions with the Taliban. We're having very good discussions with the Afghan government," Trump told reporters.

The United States will maintain an intelligence presence in the country even if it withdraws troops, in order to guard against potential militant threats, said Trump.

Last year was the deadliest on record in Afghanistan, with at least 3,804 civilian deaths caused by the war -- including 927 children, said the United Nations (UN).

According to the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 217,000 people had to flee their homes because of fighting during the first seven months of 2019, prompting a huge need for humanitarian aid nationwide.

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