JALALABAD: A suicide bomber killed 13 people in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Sunday at the home of a tribal elder when people had gathered to celebrate his son’s release from Taliban captivity, local officials said.The son was killed and at least 14 people, including his father, were wounded in the attack, according to Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on his Twitter page denied responsibility for the attack. There have been several bomb blasts in Afghanistan over recent weeks at a time when efforts are underway to restart a peace process with the Taliban.
Daesh militants in the same city last week claimed their first attack on a major urban centre in Afghanistan with an assault on the Pakistani consulate that killed seven people.
In a sharp reaction, President Ashraf Ghani condemned the deadly suicide attack in its strongest terms, saying the terrorists after losing ability to confront security forces have resorted to attacking soft targets and killing innocent civilians.
Besides expressing sympathy with the families of the victims, the Afghan president said the country’s national security forces would continue to target the enemies elsewhere in the country. He said talks will not be held with the enemies of peace.
The government’s Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah, has also denounced the deadly suicide attack. In his message, Abdullah put the attack on the enemies of peace in Afghanistan and issued directives to security organs to identify and bring to justice all those behind the bloody attack.
Delegates from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States are due to meet today (Monday) in Kabul to further a four-way dialogue aimed at urgently seeking a negotiated end to the Afghan war. The Taliban insurgency has not yet indicated whether it intends to join the renewed peace efforts.
The four-way contact group of senior Afghan, Pakistani, Chinese and US diplomats held its initial meeting last week in Pakistan where delegates underscored the need for the immediate resumption of direct talks between the Afghan government and Taliban officials.
Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ahmad Shakeb Mustaghani, said his government would present a plan for initiating talks at the meeting. “This roadmap,” he said, “identifies a clear direction for starting and progress in the peace talks.”
Pakistani officials acknowledged having “limited” influence with the Taliban, but they did not support putting pressure on the group to push it to the table, insisting such a move would be detrimental to the peace efforts.
Adviser to PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said the role of Pakistan must be limited to facilitating the process. “The process has to be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned as an externally imposed settlement is neither desirable nor it would be sustainable,” he said.