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Deadly blast hits eastern Afghan city
An explosion hit the center of the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Sunday (July 1), killing at least 19 people and wounding 20 and sending a plume of smoke into the sky, witnesses and provincial government officials said. The blast, hours after President Ashraf Ghani had opened a hospital in Jalalabad, damaged shops and buildings around Mukhaberat square in the city, said governor's spokesman Attaullah Khogyani. Ghulam Sanayi Stanekzai, police chief of Nangarhar, said the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber who targeted a vehicle carrying members of the Sikh minority who were travelling to meet the president. Officials said at least 10 of the dead were Sikhs. Afghanistan is an overwhelmingly Muslim nation but a small number of Hindus and Sikhs remain in the country. Inaamullah Miakhel, a spokesman for the provincial health department of Nangarhar, said 19 people had been killed and 20 wounded. Officials said the casualty total might have been even higher had much of the city not been blocked off for Ghani's visit. He was not in the area when the blast occurred. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, the latest in a series to have hit Jalalabad, the provincial capital of Nangarhar, where ISIS terrorists have established a strong presence in recent years.