Death toll from Afghanistan blast rises to 68

Medical staff struggled to treat 130 people wounded by the powerful blast in Nangarhar province on Tuesday

The death toll from a suicide bomb attack at a protest gathering in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar on Tuesday has risen to 68, with 165 wounded, a government official said. That higher death toll was not confirmed.

Scores of demonstrators had blocked the highway between the provincial capital of Jalalabad and a major border crossing with Pakistan in protest over the appointment of a local police chief when the suicide bomber blew himself up.

A suicide bomber targeted a protest in Mohmand Dara district in Nangarhar province on Tuesday afternoon.

"The majority of civilian casualties occurred in the Mohmandara district of Nangarhar when a suicide attacker detonated his explosives among a crowd which had gathered to demonstrate against an Afghan Local Police commander".

"All people killed were civilians in the attack", Khogyani said, adding a number of wounded were in critical condition. The Taliban, the country's largest insurgency, denied involvement.

"Then the explosion happened and I found myself surrounded by blood and flesh", Khan said from his hospital bed.

Hundreds have died in a wave of recent attacks.

There has been no claim of responsibility for any of the attacks, but the Taliban and the Islamic State (IS) group are active in Nangarhar.

The fighting has tempered optimism that had been tentatively growing as Afghan and worldwide players ratchet up efforts to convince the Taliban to negotiate an end to the 17-year conflict.

In the northern province of Sar-e Pul, hundreds of armed men assembled to boost the city's defenses as security forces fought to push the Taliban back from the city center, said Zabihullah Amani, the provincial governor's spokesman. On August 1, President Ashraf Ghani held an emergency meeting with security heads, directing them that the Afghan National Army should take the lead in ensuring the safety of Jalalabad.

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