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Bombing of Peaceful Protest in Afghanistan Kills at Least 32

Category: Asia,World

JALALABAD, Afghanistan — Extremists in eastern Afghanistan bombed a peaceful protest on Tuesday, killing at least 32 people, officials said, the deadliest in a series of attacks in Nangarhar Province over the day.

The bombings, which also struck three schools, followed a pattern of recent attacks by the Islamic State in Afghanistan, which has publicly vowed to target educational institutions and which staged a seven-hour assault on a school for midwives in the provincial capital, Jalalabad, in July.

The attack on protesters gathered in Momand Dara District, in a rural part of Nangarhar, also left at least 128 wounded, according to Attaullah Khogyani, the spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar.

Obaidullah Shinwari, deputy chief of the provincial council, said the casualty figures were most likely much higher. “Fifty people were killed and 150 others were wounded in today’s suicide attack in Momand Dara district,” he said.

In the case of the three schools, two high schools for girls and one for boys, bombs were hidden near the school buildings. One 14-year-old boy was killed, and four people were wounded.

The protesters in Momand Dara had gathered to demand the dismissal of a police commander, Bilal Pacha, whom they accuse of involvement in arbitrary killings, robberies and maintaining a private prison. A suicide bomber approached the crowded tent where the protesters had gathered and detonated his explosive vest, Mr. Khogyani said.

“The suicide attacker got out of a white car and ran toward the protesters’ tent,” said Sayed Qayoom, a witness reached by phone. “He shouted ‘God is great’ and then blew himself up.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for any of the four attacks, but the Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for similar strikes on government institutions, international aid groups, sporting events and other targets in the province in recent months. Taliban insurgents, also active in the area, denied any role in the bombings on Tuesday.

The Islamic State’s last remaining stronghold in Afghanistan is in the southern part of Nangarhar, where American and Afghan forces have carried out many operations against the group and reduced the area it controls. The militants have responded by carrying out attacks in urban centers and against lightly defended targets.

The attacks on Tuesday brought to six the number of schools attacked in the province in recent months. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for previous episodes.

On Wednesday, the Islamic State targeted a wrestling gym in the Afghan capital, killing more than 30 people, including two Afghan journalists, and wounding 91 others, according to the Health Ministry. The assailant had arrived at the gym on foot and detonated explosives hidden in a vest. An hour later, there was a blast from a vehicle packed with explosives close to the gym, which killed emergency service workers, journalists and civilians at the scene of the first bombing.

Taliban insurgents are responsible for most of the growing number of casualties across Afghanistan. In addition to fighting on the front lines against Afghan national forces and trying to capture territory, the group often carries out deadly attacks in big cities. But a Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, denied in a WhatsApp message that the group had played any role in the attacks on Tuesday.

Islamic State insurgents have vowed to attack schools in the province in retaliation for American bombing campaigns against their forces.

Zabihullah Ghazi reported from Jalalabad, and Fahim Abed from Kabul, Afghanistan. Rod Nordland contributed reporting from Kabul.

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