A suicide bombing Saturday that killed at least 33 people and wounded more than 100 others in the city of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan was allegedly the work of a group that claims to be affiliated with the Islamic State.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid denied his group had any involvement in the attack, which targeted Kabul Bank, a government-owned institution with branches nationwide that delivers the paychecks of the Afghan army, police, and other government workers.
"It was an evil act," Mujahid told Reuters. "We strongly condemn it."
An Islamic State offshoot called Wilayat Khorasan reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack by sending a text message to reporters. The message named the suicide bomber as Abu Mohammad Khorasani, according to the Washington Post, but did not give his nationality. The message reportedly included a picture of Khorasani sitting on a prayer mat next to an AK-47 and a black Islamic State flag.
In a nationally televised speech, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also blamed the Islamic State for the attack, calling them Daesh, an acronym for the group's full Arabic name.
"Today the deadly attack in Nangarhar Province — who claimed responsibility?" Ghani said. "Taliban did not claim responsibility, but Daesh claimed responsibility."
Several militant groups in Afghanistan have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in recent months, often after defecting from the Taliban. Questions still remain about whether these groups have connections to the Islamic State's leadership in Iraq and Syria, or are merely trying to capitalize on their fearsome reputation.
Previously this year, Islamic State groups in Afghanistan killed a Taliban commander in central Logar province, kidnapped 30 members of the ethnic Hazara minority group, and clashed with the Taliban in the southern Helmand province.
This is not the first time that a Kabul Bank branch has been the target of a deadly attack. In 2011, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on the same branch in Jalalabad that killed 38 people.
Kabul Bank became a symbol of Afghanistan's rampant corruption after it was home to "the biggest bank collapse in history" five years ago. The bank "lost" nearly $1 billion from shady investments and questionable loans. According to the Guardian, the bank's former executives essentially ran Kabul Bank as a "giant pyramid scheme." The bank's collapse prompted a massive bailout by the International Monetary Fund in an effort to save Afghanistan's already dismal economy.
The Kabul Bank scandal involved Afghanistan's former president Hamid Karzai and other members of the Karzai family, who have ties with bank's ownership. In 2012, an independent auditor's report revealed that Kabul Bank had funneled nearly $900 million from fraudulent loans to a small circle of political elites, including Mahmoud Karzai, the former president's brother. Mahmoud Karzai denied allegations that he profited from the loans and said he paid back everything he owed.
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Aleem Agha contributed reporting from Kabul