World News

Rare Attack on Cricket Match in Afghanistan Kills at Least 8

Posted May 19, 2018 12:57 p.m. EDT

JALALABAD, Afghanistan — At least eight people have been killed and dozens of others wounded in a series of blasts at a cricket match in eastern Afghanistan, officials said.

An attack on an Afghan cricket match is highly unusual. The sport has been one of the few rallying points that have brought together supporters of both the government and Taliban militants.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a statement denying that the group was involved in the attack late Friday on the stadium in the city of Jalalabad.

Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, which includes Jalalabad, said three explosions at the Spinghar Cricket Ground had killed eight people and wounded 45 others.

Khogyani said one bomb, apparently hidden under a raised dais used by the sports announcer, exploded around 11:30 p.m., during a break in the match while speeches were being made. That was followed by two more blasts at the gates of the cricket ground, apparently intended to kill fleeing spectators. It was not clear whether those bombs had also been planted or were carried by suicide attackers; one was in a motorized rickshaw.

The attack was the first major one in Afghanistan since the holy month of Ramadan began Thursday, but it came in the wake of a series of deadly strikes across the country as part of the Taliban’s spring offensive.

The match was taking place late at night, a common practice during Ramadan, when most people are fasting during the daylight hours. It was billed as the Ramadan Cricket Cup.

The chairman of the Afghanistan Cricket Board, Atif Mashal, an extremely popular figure, condemned the attack on Twitter, saying that cricket had been a source of happiness and pride for the entire country. “These attacks are against peace, unity and humanity,” he said.

A number of officials were among the dead, including a Laghman province official, Nekmal Waziri, and the organizer of the match, Hedayatullah Zahir, Khogyani said. At least one child was killed.

Najibullah Kamawal, head of the Nangarhar province health department, said that two of the people wounded were in critical condition, and that two local journalists were among those wounded.