KABUL – The Islamic State group on Sunday claimed responsibility for a complex attack by a suicide car bomber and multiple gunmen against a prison in eastern Afghanistan, which Afghan officials said killed at least three people and injured 24 others.
The hourslong gunbattle between Afghan security forces and insurgents in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, was still ongoing Sunday evening, and casualties were likely to rise, according to Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor.
Tariq Arian, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said at least three people were killed, while Zahir Adil, the spokesman for the provincial Health Ministry, provided the figure of 24 wounded.
The Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan, known as IS in Khorasan province, claimed responsibility for the attack. The IS affiliate is headquartered in Nangarhar province.
Sunday’s attack comes a day after the Afghan intelligence agency said a senior IS commander was killed by Afghan special forces near Jalalabad.
The Taliban’s political spokesman Suhail Shaheen told The Associated Press, “We have a cease-fire and are not involved in any of these attacks anywhere in the country,” but said he was not aware of the details of the Jalalabad attack.
The Taliban declared a three-day cease-fire starting Friday for the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
The Taliban had also denied involvement in a suicide bombing in the eastern Logar province late Thursday, which killed at least nine people and wounded at least 40, authorities said.
Afghanistan has seen a recent spike in violence, with most attacks claimed by the local IS affiliate.
A United Nations report last month estimated there are around 2,200 IS members in Afghanistan, and that while the group is in “territorial retreat” and its leadership has been depleted, it “remains capable of carrying out high-profile attacks in various parts of the country, including Kabul.”
Efforts to get peace talks underway between the Taliban and the Kabul government have stalled after the Taliban and the U.S. signed a deal in February, seen as a blueprint to ending Afghanistan’s decades of war.
That deal was struck to allow the U.S. to end its 19-year involvement in Afghanistan, and calls on the Taliban to guarantee its territory will not be used by terrorist groups. The deal is also expected to guarantee the Taliban’s all-out participation in the fight against IS.
Still, a United Nations report last week said Afghanistan saw a 13% drop in the number of civilians killed and wounded in violence across the country in the first six months of the year, compared to the same period last year.
The report credited the drop in casualties in part to the reduction of operations by international forces — which now only act when called upon and in support of the Afghan forces — and also to a decrease in the number of attacks by IS.
The report said the U.N. had recorded 17 attacks by IS that caused civilian casualties during the first six months of 2020, down from 97 attacks in the same period last year. Overall, the U.N. said 1,282 people were killed in violence in the first six months of 2020 in Afghanistan and 2,176 were wounded.
Associated Press writer Kathy Gannon contributed from Islamabad.