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Suicide bomb attack targeting protestors in Afghanistan leaves 68 dead

Yesterday, September 11th 2018, a suicide bomber targeted a protest on a key highway between Jalalabad and a border crossing in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. The attack left at least 68 killed and 165 injured.

The protestors had come from Nangarhar’s Achin district to demand the removal of a local police commander. Security officials have warned that similar incidents are likely to continue if crowds gather at campaign rallies prior to the parliamentary elections in October.

The suicide attack came only hours after multiple bombs had detonated at schools in Jalalabad. In one attack a 14-year-old boy was killed and four others were wounded.

The Taliban has denied involvement in the attacks and ISIS remain the likely perpetrators, with Nangarhar a key ISIS stronghold since 2015.

Such attacks are on the rise in Afghanistan. Only last week a suicide attack at a wrestling session in Kabul left 26 dead and 91 injured. In the first half of 2018, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) recorded 2,002 civilian casualties from explosive violence in Afghanistan, compared to the 1,581 civilian casualties recorded in the same period last year – an increase of 27%.

From January to the end of June 2018, the main cause of civilian casualties from explosive violence in Afghanistan continues to be improvised explosive devices (IEDs), responsible for 83% of all civilian casualties.

Civilian casualties from ISIS bombings in particular have seen a considerable increase. AOAV recorded a 345% increase in the number of civilian casualties from IED attacks claimed by ISIS and their affiliates in Afghanistan (136 to 605) in the first half of 2018.

With civilian casualties from IEDs increasing year-on-year in Afghanistan since 2013, 2017 saw a rise of 40% compared to the previous year. And, for the first time in AOAV’s recording, Afghanistan was the country worst impacted by IEDs – a spot claimed by Iraq for the previous six years.

With civilian casualties already set to be higher this year in Afghanistan, the level of IED harm should be of considerable concern.

AOAV calls for states and international organisations to work collaboratively to generate greater awareness of the number of civilians killed and injured each year by IEDs, and encourage a greater stigma from political, religious and social leaders on the use of IEDs. There is an urgent need for preventative measures to be implemented by States and the international community.