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Suicide bomber kills dozens at Afghanistan bank

By Amy R. Connolly

JALALABAD, Afghanistan, April 18 (UPI) -- A suicide bomber killed at least 33 people including children in an early morning attack outside a bank.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack but there has been no independent verification of the claim. If true, the attack would be the first major IS-led violence in Afghanistan.

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A statement from the IS regional branch Wilayat Khorasan said the bomber, Abu Mohammad, was targeting government workers and military personnel who were collecting their pay at the bank. IS leaders said Mohammad detonated the bomb at the peak of rush hour, about 8 a.m., when the largest crowd was expected. Some of the dead included children.

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani called it a "cowardly and heinous terrorist act". It is considered the largest attack in Jalalabad in months.

The attack happened as Afghan workers, including police officers, were waiting in lines to collect paychecks.

"The suicide bomber was on foot and wanted to get inside the bank when he detonated his explosives," said Hazrat Hussain Mashreqiwal, the police spokesman for Nangarhar Province.

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Authorities immediately suspected the Taliban insurgency in the attack, but the group's spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, denied any involvement.

"The explosion in Jalalabad doesn't have anything to do with us and we condemn it," he said in a text to reporters..

The bank attack in the eastern Afghan city was one of three separate attacks in the area about the same time. Police said the other two did not kill anyone. The IS did not claim responsibility for the other two blasts.

The IS recently announced plans to expand in the Afghanistan and Pakistan regions, calling the area "Khorasan."

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