The Afghan president says jihadist group "Islamic State" has claimed a bomb attack in eastern Afghanistan that killed dozens. If verified, it would be the first major attack by "IS" in the country.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced that "Islamic State" ("IS") had claimed responsibility for Saturday's attack while he was on a visit to northeastern Badakhshan province.
"Who claimed responsibility for the horrific attack in Nangarhar today? The Taliban did not claim responsibility for the attack; Daesh (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack," Ghani said, having earlier condemned the bombing in a statement as a "cowardly act."
The AFP news agency also reported receiving a phone call from a purported IS spokesman who claimed the group had carried out the attack outside a bank in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, in which at least 33 people died and some 100 were wounded.
IS has up to now never formally acknowledged having a presence in Afghanistan, though it has seized large amounts of territory in Syria and Iraq.
A number of Taliban members have, however, defected to the Islamist extremist organization in recent months, raising the specter of the jihadists' gaining a foothold in the Asian country, already wracked by decades of conflict.
Saturday's attack was the deadliest since November.
Taliban rebels, who have been carrying out attacks on foreign and government forces in the country for years, had earlier denied responsibility for the incident, in which government employees and civilians collecting their salaries from the bank were the main victims.
"It was an evil act. We strongly condemn it," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters news agency.
The bombing comes as security forces in the country brace for an expected surge in Taliban attacks amid the group's traditional spring offensive.
tj/kms (AP, Reuters, AFP)