A suicide bomber blew up a car packed with explosives near a busy market and a mosque in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing 89 people and wounding more than 40 in one of the deadliest attacks since the 2001 US-led invasion.
The attack in the town of Urgun in Paktika province brutally underscored the country’s instability as foreign troops prepare to leave by the end of the year and feuding politicians in Kabul work to form a new government after a disputed presidential election.
Gen Mohammad Zahir Azimi, the defense ministry spokesman, said the bomber detonated his explosives-laden vehicle as he drove by the crowded market in the remote town in Urgun district, close to the border with Pakistan.
The military was providing helicopters and ambulances to transport the victims to the provincial capital, Sharan, and so far 42 wounded have been moved to hospitals there, he said, adding that the explosion destroyed more than 20 shops and dozens of vehicles.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, and the Taliban sent a statement to media denying involvement, saying they “strongly condemn attacks on local people.” Many of the victims were buried under the rubble, said Mohammad Reza Kharoti, the administrative chief of Urgun district.
“It was a very brutal suicide attack against poor civilians,” he said. “There was no military base nearby.” The bombing was also the first major attack since a weekend deal between the two Afghan presidential contenders brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry averted a dangerous rift in the country’s troubled democracy following last month’s disputed runoff.