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Afghan bomb death toll rises to 89

The death toll from a suicide car bombing in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktika province has climbed to 89, with more than 40 people wounded.

The blast took place when the bomber detonated his explosives-packed vehicle near a crowded market and a mosque in the Urgun district of Paktika province.

General Mohammad Zahir Azimi, a Defence Ministry spokesman, said the military is providing helicopters and ambulances to transport the victims to the provincial capital Sharan.

Mr Azimi says 42 people were wounded in the explosion and some 20 shops were destroyed.

No-one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Taliban sent a statement to media denying their insurgent group was involved in the bombing and said they “strongly condemn attacks on local people”.

The explosion destroyed more than 20 shops and dozens of vehicles, he said.

Many of the victims were buried under the rubble, said Mohammad Reza Kharoti, the administrative chief of Urgun district.

“It was a very brutal suicide attack against poor civilians, he said. “There was no military base nearby.”

The bombing was also the first major attack since a weekend deal between the two Afghan presidential contenders brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry averted a dangerous rift in the country’s troubled democracy.

One of the two, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, told The Associated Press on Monday that he would meet his rival, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, on Tuesday to begin working out the framework for the next government, with participation from both camps and all communities in the country.

But violence has continued unabated in Afghanistan.

Hours before the Paktika blast, a roadside bomb in eastern Kabul ripped through a minivan carrying seven employees of the media office of the presidential palace, killing two of the passengers.

The explosion struck as the vehicle was taking the palace staffers to work, said Gul Agha Hashimi, the chief of criminal investigations with the Kabul police.

Five other people, including the driver, were wounded, said Mr Hashimi, speaking to reporters at the site of the blast. “One passenger survived unharmed,” he said.

Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai said it was a remotely detonated device planted along the midsection of a main road.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for that attack in a statement sent to reporters.

Roadside bombings are a major threat to both Afghan security forces and civilians across the country.

Such attacks have escalated as the Taliban intensify their campaign ahead of the US-led foreign forces’ withdrawal by the end of 2014.

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