A suicide bomber targeting a gathering in a volatile eastern province of Afghanistan killed 13 people, including seven members of a prominent pro-government clan, Afghan officials said.
Another 14 people were wounded in the attack on the home of Obaidullah Shinwari, a scion of the clan and member of the Nangarhar provincial council who was not harmed in the attack, the officials said.
The attack came a day before a second round of international talks aimed at reviving the peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. A Taliban spokesman tweeted that his group was not involved.
The head of the council, Ahmad Ali Hazrat, told The Associated Press that the bomber mingled with a crowd at the family event in the provincial capital of Jalalabad before setting off his payload.
Malik Osman, the head of the family and a respected community elder in the Shinwar district near the Pakistan border was wounded and flown to Kabul for treatment, Hazrat said.
The family has strongly supported President Ashraf Ghani’s efforts to bring peace to the country after almost 40 years of war and 15 years of Taliban insurgency.
The family and guests had gathered to mark the release of another of Osman’s sons, Samiullah, eight months after he was kidnapped and held by the Taliban. Samiullah was wounded in the attack, but not seriously, according to Zabiullah Zamaray, another provincial council member.
The day before the attack, hundreds of residents of Achin district — where Shinwari’s nephew Nasim is governor — held a demonstration calling on authorities to rid the region of insurgents, including a newly formed Islamic State affiliate that recently seized parts of the province after a summer of fierce fighting with the Taliban.
An attack last week on the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad, which is close to Shinwari’s home, was claimed by the IS affiliate, which refers to itself as Khorasan Province and was recently listed as a terror group by the U.S. government.
Ghani condemned the attack, saying in a statement that as “terrorists lose their ability to fight Afghan forces on the battlefield, now they are carrying out terror attacks on residential areas.”
Representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China are due to meet in Kabul on Monday for the second time this month to formulate a roadmap for peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban. The Taliban are not taking part in the talks.
An official in Kabul from one of the countries involved in the talks said that another two rounds of “preparatory meetings” were likely to take place as they worked out the details of a future dialogue.
“There are different opinions about the methodologies and approaches in resuming these talks,” he said. The roadmap would include “who do they want to talk to, on what timetable, what incentives are to be offered, and what kind of action will be taken with those people who want to talk and those who do not want to talk,” the official said.
The official was not authorized to speak with reporters about the talks so spoke on condition of anonymity.
The first meeting of the four-nation group took place in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Jan. 11.
The meetings seek to revive a process that was derailed last July after the first and only face-to-face meeting between Afghan government and Taliban representatives in Islamabad. That initiative collapsed after Kabul announced that the insurgent group’s leader had died in a Pakistani hospital more than two years earlier.
SOURCE: The Associated Press