Suicide Bombing on Afghan Education Department Kills 12

Suicide Bombing on Afghan Education Department Kills 12

Afghans removing the body of a man killed in a shooting and suicide bombing in Jalalabad on Wednesday, the second attack in the city in 24 hours.CreditParwiz/Reuters

By Zabihullah Ghazi and Mujib Mashal

  • July 11, 2018

JALALABAD, Afghanistan — Suicide bombers targeted an Education Department building in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Wednesday, striking the commercial hub for the second time in 24 hours and killing at least 12 people.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest in a series of strikes on educational sites in the province. But suspicions quickly fell on the Islamic State, which has a foothold in the region and has announced its plans to attack schools in retaliation for airstrikes and other military operations that have killed its fighters.

Gen. Ghulam Sanayee Stanekzai, the police chief of Nangarhar Province, which includes Jalalabad, said that a single assailant had shot and killed guards at the precinct’s Education Department before detonating explosives hidden in a vest. But a spokesman for the governor later said there had been three assailants.

“In addition to the three attackers, 12 people were killed, including two security members of the Afghan security forces,” said the spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani. Nine others were wounded.

A suicide attack at a security checkpoint in the Khales Family area of Jalalabad on Tuesday killed at least eight civilians and two security officers, Mr. Khogyani said.

“The attacker detonated his explosives as the vehicles were lined up to be searched,” said Faqir Mohammed, who witnessed the earlier strike. “Many of the civilians were burned in their vehicles.”

Afghan security forces inspecting the site after the attack on Wednesday.CreditParwiz/Reuters

Nangarhar lies along Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan, and Islamic State fighters in the area continue to threaten to stage brutal attacks in the provincial capital, even amid operations by Afghan commandos as well as American airstrikes.

United States and Afghan officials say the territory controlled by the militants has shrunk, and they declared just days ago that the group had been cleared from a stronghold in Nangarhar.

This month, assailants set fire to a school in the Khogyani District of the province, and three caretakers there were beheaded. Provincial officials said the Islamic State was responsible.

In the attack on Wednesday, most of the Education Department’s offices were burned, and an elderly man was shot and killed near an exterior wall, apparently while trying to flee. An employee whose body was soaked in blood still had a pen in one hand.

At least two employees were rescued by security forces.

“I was preparing the attendance when the shooting started,” said one, Afsar Khan. “I hid behind a desk and God saved me. They kept firing, and our staff kept crying and screaming.”

“This was an attack on the pen, on education,” he said. “Whoever did this and hears my voice: You can’t reach power with such attacks.”

The threats by the Islamic State come as the Afghan government and the United States are trying to press for talks with another extremist group, the Taliban, which is responsible for the bulk of the fighting across the country.

On Wednesday, a conference of Islamic scholars in Saudi Arabia, which includes some of the holiest sites of Islam, called on the Taliban to join a peace process to end the “sufferings endured by the Muslim Afghan people with the shedding of innocent blood, the loss of sacred lives.”

Zabihullah Ghazi reported from Jalalabad, and Mujib Mashal from Kabul, Afghanistan.

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