Four dead after blast in eastern Afghan city: official

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JALALABAD, Afghanistan (Reuters) – An explosion hit the center of the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Sunday, killing at least four people and sending a plume of smoke into the sky, witnesses and provincial government officials said.

The blast, hours after President Ashraf Ghani had visited Jalalabad, damaged shops and buildings around Mukhaberat square in the city, said governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani.

Sohrab Qaderi, a member of the provincial council of Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan, said at least four people had been killed and six wounded by the blast, which was apparently caused by explosives concealed in the area.

Officials said the casualty total might have been much higher had much of the city not been blocked off for the visit by Ghani, who 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 Islamic State fighters have established a strong presence in recent years.

Reporting by Ahmad Sultan and Qadir Sediqi. Editing by Jane Merriman and Louise Heavens