ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - Afghan officials say a suicide car bomb has killed at least 41 people in eastern Afghanistan. Earlier reports said 89 were killed. Tuesday's attack took place in a region that borders Pakistan.
Authorities in the Afghan province of Paktika say almost all the victims of Tuesday’s suicide blast are civilians and fear the death toll may rise.
A presidential statement said children were also among those killed when a bomber detonated his explosives-packed car in a crowded market in Urgun district.
The district governor, Mohammad Reza Kharuti, told VOA that rescue workers were still trying to retrieve bodies and transport the wounded to local hospitals.
The governor said the massive explosion destroyed around 50 shops on both sides of the road while up to 20 vehicles were also damaged. He added that many of the victims were buried under the rubble.
Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi said the military was providing helicopters and ambulances to transport those seriously injured to the provincial capital, Sharan.
The Afghan Taliban denied involvement in the attack. The insurgent group's spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, issued a statement, saying its “Mujahedeen” were not behind Tuesday's car bombing because "such attacks do not bring any benefit to them”.
The attack happened hours after a roadside bomb in the Afghan capital killed two employees of President Hamid Karzai’s media office. Police said five people were wounded, with the Taliban claiming responsibility for the blast.
Afghanistan has seen a rise in insurgent violence at a time when international troops are reducing their presence in the country to complete their withdrawal by the end of this year.
The United Nations says that escalation in hostilities in Afghanistan has pushed up civilian deaths and injuries by a quarter in the first six months of 2014. The U.N. mission in Kabul recently reported a “direct correlation” in some areas between the closures of foreign military bases and a rise in civilian casualties.
Paktika province, the site of Tuesday's deadly blast ,borders Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal district where a full-blown military offensive against militant hideouts is underway.
The Waziristan territory is a known hub of the Pakistani Taliban and is notorious for harboring fighters of the Afghan Taliban insurgency as well as the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani Network.