Kabul, January 1 (Reuters): A suicide bomber walked into a cemetery in eastern Afgha,nistan on Sunday and blew himself up during the funeral of a local official, killing at least 18 people and wounding 14 others, an official said.
The attacker set off an explosive vest among mourners gathered for the funeral of Gul Wali, the former district chief of Haskah Menah, according to Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar Province.
The attack unfolded as a man on foot set upon Maqam Khan cemetery in the Bihsud District, near the provincial capital, Jalalabad. Mr. Khogyani said he expected the death toll to rise.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the assault. But the Taliban and an Islamic State affiliate are both active in Nangarhar and routinely target local officials.
The bombing capped a bloody year in Afghanistan. More than 16 years after the war began, the government has struggled to cope with militant groups like the Taliban; the Haqqani Network, a brutal arm of the Taliban; and the Islamic State.
These groups have launched repeated attacks against Afghan Army outposts, police checkpoints and the American-led coalition, leaving towns and cities strewn with carnage and civilian casualties.
Afghan forces aided by United States airstrikes have claimed growing success against the militants, but attacks on civilian targets have continued.
In an unannounced visit to the country in December, Vice President Mike Pence reaffirmed the Trump Administation’s support for the country’s beleaguered government as it struggled to fight the Taliban and tried to bring stability.
“We’ve been on a long road together, but President Trump made it clear earlier this year that we are with you,” Mr. Pence said at the presidential palace in Kabul. He added, “We are here to see this through.”
The bombing came days after the Islamic State claimed responsibility for a bombing at a Shiite center in Kabul on Thursday that left at least 41 people dead and dozens more wounded.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan this weekend, a sticky bomb exploded in a crowded neighborhood in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif late Saturday, wounding 12 people, Gen. Abdul Raziq Qaderi, the deputy provincial police chief, told Reuters.