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Death Toll Doubles in Suicide Bombing in Eastern Afghanistan

Afghan officials inspect the site of a suicide bomb attack outside a Shi'ite mosque in Herat, Afghanistan, March 25, 2018.

Officials in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province say the death toll from Tuesday's suicide bombing has risen to 68 people, up from the previous figure of 32.

The attack happened in the remote Mohmand Dara district as residents were staging a protest in the Daka village to demand the dismissal of a local police commander.

In a statement Wednesday, Atttahullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said another 165 people were wounded in the bombing.

The Taliban denied any involvement in the attack.

Hours earlier three schools were hit by bombings in the provincial capital of Jalalabad. At least one child was killed and several people were injured, a spokesman for the provincial education directorate told VOA.

There were no claims of responsibility for the attacks in Jalalabad, where almost all recent bombings and militant raids against civilian and educational facilities have been claimed by Islamic State.

The Afghan affiliate of Islamic State, known as IS Khorasan Province (ISK-P), and the Taliban insurgency operate bases in Nangarhar next to the border with neighboring Pakistan.

Taliban makes advances, drought worsens

Taliban insurgents have been conducting battlefield attacks since Saturday, focusing on northern Afghan provinces. The raids have reportedly killed about 140 Afghan security forces and brought more territory under insurgent control.

The spike in violence comes amid a severe drought.

The United Nations Office for the Humanitarian Affairs in Afghanistan said the conflict and the drought have displaced half-a-million Afghans since the beginning of the year.

“The total displacement due to the drought has reached a total of 275,000 people, exceeding the number of people displaced by conflict in 2018 by 52,000 people,” the agency said.