A suicide bomber killed scores of people at a packed volleyball tournament in Afghanistan on Sunday, officials confirmed. With at least 45 fatalities, it is one of the deadliest attacks so far this year in the country.
The bombing coincided foreign troops withdrawing from the area, and occurred on the same day the Afghan parliament approved a security agreement with the United States and NATO.
The bomber walked into the game — a tournament final that attracted a huge crowd of fans — with a vest packed with explosives.
The attack, in the Paktika province — an area bordering Pakistan that is active with insurgents — also wounded at least 50 people, mainly civilians, province spokesman Mukhles Afghan said in a statement. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing.
Officials immediately condemned the attack on civilians and said they expect the death toll to rise. Some reports from the scene indicated as many as 55 people were killed.
A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a statement saying the leader, "deplores the heinous attack that took the life of many Afghan civilians in Yahya Khail district of Paktika province."
The bombing occurred during a renewed insurgency that has killed thousands of people in the country this year. Afghanistan faced the highest rate of attacks this fall since 2011, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction declared in a quarterly report.
Paktika province already suffered one of the nation's worst attacks this summer when a car filled with explosives detonated at a bustling market and killed 43 civilians.
To combat the wave of violence, Afghanistan's Parliament agreed Sunday that some American and NATO troops could remain in the country until 2016. All troops were scheduled to leave by the end of this year, but Ghani spokesman Nazifullah Salarzaitold media that the foreign troops are necessary to "train, advise and assist Afghan security forces."
President Barack Obama recently issued an order that will give Americans a direct role in fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban in 2015, and also allow for US air support to Afghan forces.
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