KABUL Ė At least 17 people died and another 40 were wounded on Thursday when a suicide attack struck near hundreds of protestors demonstrating against the local government of the Khost province in southeastern Afghanistan, an official source told Efe.
A suicide bomber detonated explosives as the group of protesters neared the provincial governorís residence, according to governor spokesperson Mubariz Zadran.
Zadran added that the death toll could go up, as some of the wounded are in critical condition.
The victims have been taken to various hospitals in the area, among who were a lawmaker and the head of parliamentary defense committee, Homayoun Homayoun.
Hundreds of citizens from Khost had been protesting for the third consecutive day, demanding the resignation of several provincial officials including the governor over corruption allegations, when the attack occurred.
The Taliban, the common perpetrator of such attacks in the country, denied responsibility for the attack.
A rise in insurgent attacks usually occurs in the country with the coming of spring, especially in areas that are inaccessible during the winter due to weather conditions.
Khost, which is near to the tribal areas of bordering Pakistan, has long been the stronghold of insurgents and the focus of Pakistani army operations.
The end of 2014 saw the termination of the North Atlantic Treaty Organizationís International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan, making way for Operation Resolute Support, under which NATO maintains around 4,000 soldiers to train the Afghan security forces.
The United States deploys about 9,800 soldiers under its anti-terrorism combat mission in Afghanistan.
Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that these troops would continue to remain in the country until the end of the year, a turnaround from his plan to reduce that number to half.