A suicide bomber in Afghanistan blew himself on Wednesday in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, an official said.

Afghan security forces stand guard near the site of an attack in Jalalabad, Afghanistan March 6, 2019.
Afghan security forces stand guard near the site of an attack in Jalalabad, Afghanistan March 6, 2019. (Reuters)

Militants in Afghanistan set off a suicide blast on Wednesday morning and stormed a construction company near the airport in Jalalabad, the capital of eastern Nangarhar province, killing at least 16 people, officials said. 

The dawn assault triggered an hours-long gun battle with local guards, drawing in US forces to assist the Afghan troops in the shootout. 

Along with the 16 killed, nine people were also wounded in the attack, according to Attahullah Khogyani, the provincial governor’s spokesman. 

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but both the Taliban and the Daesh group are active in eastern Afghanistan, especially in Nangarhar. 

The two groups have been carrying out near-daily attacks across Afghanistan in recent years, mainly targeting the government and Afghan security forces and causing staggering casualties, including among civilians. 

The attacks have continued despite stepped-up US efforts to find a negotiated resolution of the 17-year war, America’s longest.

Wednesday’s attack began around 0030GMT (5 am local time) and five attackers were involved, Khogyani said. Two of them detonated their explosives, blowing themselves up, while the remaining three were killed in the shooting.

The attackers were on foot and after setting off a suicide blast at the company gates, the others stormed in, triggering a gun battle that drew US forces to the scene, according to Gen. Ghulam Sanayee Stanikzai, the provincial police chief. 

“US forces are supporting Afghan forces in securing the area now,” Stanikzai later said. 

TRT World spoke to Kabul-based journalist Bilal Sarwary for more details.

As the attack unfolded, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani arrived for a visit to neighbouring Kunar province to inaugurate an administrative health complex and to lay the cornerstone of a 200-bed hospital. 

It was unclear why the construction company, called MQ, was targeted. 

“A clearing-up operation is still under way by Afghan security forces,” he added. 

Over the weekend, the Taliban targeted an Afghan army unit at its camp in southern Helmand province, killing at least 23 troops and wounding more than 20 others. That attack began on Friday and ended on Saturday evening, 40 hours later. 

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Helmand attack, which came even as insurgents were meeting with a US peace envoy in Qatar, a Gulf Arab country, for peace talks.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies