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Suicide Bomber Hits Afghan Volleyball Tournament

Afghan officials say a suicide bomber has killed at least 50 people during a volleyball tournament in the country's east.

The match in the Paktika province district of Yahya Khel had drawn a large crowd. At least 80 more people were wounded in the attack and are being treated in various medical facilities in Kabul, the capital. No group has yet to claim responsibility for the attack.

Paktika, bordering Pakistan, is one of Afghanistan's most volatile regions in the Taliban-led insurgency against the central government.

The attack Sunday came the same day that Afghanistan's lower house of parliament approved security agreements with the United States and NATO allowing international forces to remain in the country past the end of this year to support local forces.

Earlier, news reports said President Barack Obama issued new guidelines expanding the ability of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to confront Taliban fighters, not just al-Qaida.

Speaking under condition of anonymity, U.S. officials told news outlets the decision will allow U.S. troops to go after Taliban fighters if they pose a threat to U.S. and coalition forces. The order reportedly also applies if the militants provide direct support to al-Qaida.

The new authorization for 2015 also means the U.S. can offer air support to Afghan troops when needed.

Nazifullah Salarzai, a spokesman for the Afghan president, told VOA's Dari service his country is counting on the support of its international partners in training and the fight against terrorism. He added that the Afghan government is also working on a code of conduct in regard to U.S. air support.

President Obama said previously that U.S. missions in Afghanistan next year would be limited to training Afghan forces and counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaida.

The new guidelines will not change the plan to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan to 9,800 by January 1.

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    The Voice of America provides news and information in more than 40 languages to an estimated weekly audience of over 326 million people. Stories with the VOA News byline are the work of multiple VOA journalists and may contain information from wire service reports.