A suicide bomber attacked a volleyball tournament in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing at least 50 people, officials said.
Dozens more were wounded when the bomber, who was on foot and mingling with the crowd, detonated his explosives, said Mokhis Afgha, the spokesman for the governor of Paktika province.
He said the attack happened during an inter-district volleyball tournament attended by large crowed in Yahyakhail district late Sunday afternoon.
“There were too many people gathered in the one place to watch the game. Dozens of others are wounded and we have reports that many of them are in critical condition,” Afghan said.
“We need urgent help from the central government because we might need to transfer wounded people to Kabul for treatment,” he added. Paktika, bordering Pakistan, is one of Afghanistan’s most volatile regions, where a Taleban-led insurgency is waging an intensifying war against the government in Kabul.
Sunday’s attack is one of the deadliest so far this year, a time when attacks are escalating alongside a contentious election and the inauguration of President Ashraf Ghani in September.
Afghanistan’s lower house of Parliament on Sunday approved agreements that will allow about 12,500 NATO-led troops to stay on next year as the national army and police struggle to hold back the Taleban. US-led NATO combat operations will finish at the end of this year, but the Taleban have launched a series of recent offensives that have severely tested Afghan soldiers and police.
The new NATO mission — named Resolute Support — will focus on supporting the Afghan forces, in parallel with US counter-terrorism operations.
The Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States, and a similar pact with NATO, were the source of huge friction between the Afghan government and its allies under previous president Hamid Karzai.
But Ashraf Ghani, who became president in September, reset ties by signing the long-awaited deals on his first day in power.
Ghani welcomed lawmakers’ overwhelming vote in favor of the two agreements on Sunday and said he awaited the prompt approval of the upper house.
“It is a good step in strengthening Afghanistan’s national sovereignty,” Ghani said in a statement.
“The Afghan security forces will be in charge of full security of their country, and will be further equipped and strengthened.”
Karzai’s refusal to sign the security accord came to symbolize the breakdown of Afghan-US relations after the optimism of 2001, when the Taleban regime was ousted from power with US assistance.
On Friday the New York Times reported that President Barack Obama had extended the remit of those US troops set to remain in Afghanistan next year.