A suicide attack on protesters in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday killed at least 68 people, officials said, as an uptick in violence across the country dampens hopes for peace talks and elections. The casualty toll increased overnight as a number of critically wounded protesters died from their injuries.
Scores of demonstrators had blocked the highway between the provincial capital of Jalalabad and a major Pakistan border crossing in protest over the appointment of a local police chief when the suicide bomber blew himself up.
Afghan men carry an injured man to a hospital after a suicide attack in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan September 11, 2018.
Khogyani said the victims were staging a protest in the Daka village to demand the dismissal of a local police commander when the bomber hit them.
The blast dispersed the crowd, but more people gathered after the explosion to continue the protest.
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No group claimed responsibility for the attack..
The latest toll, reported by Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor, was up from an earlier figure of 32, according to The Associated Press.
The blast, less than a week after a suicide attack killed more than 20 people in the capital, Kabul, came as violence has flared across the nation, with heavy fighting in northern provinces. The Taliban denied involvement. In a statement, he said "attacks on civilian facilities, mosques, women, children, are all crimes against humanity".
The fighting has tempered optimism that had been tentatively growing as Afghan and global players ratchet up efforts to convince the Taliban to negotiate an end to the 17-year conflict.
On Tuesday security forces had managed to push back Taliban fighters by a couple of kilometres, locals and officials told AFP. On August 1, President Ashraf Ghani held an emergency meeting with security heads, directing them that the Afghan National Army should take the lead in ensuring the safety of Jalalabad.