KABUL — A powerful explosion was set off Friday outside a packed sports stadium in southern Afghanistan, where officials said at least 14 people were killed and more than 40 others injured.
Hundreds of local residents had gathered to watch a wrestling match at the stadium in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand province.
No group claimed the attack, but officials say it was a car bomb.
Omar Zwak, a spokesman for the provincial governor, told Reuters the driver of the car detonated his bomb after he was prevented from entering the venue. He said at least 14 people had been killed and at least 47 wounded. The casualties included children.
The Italian-run Emergency Hospital said it received dozens of wounded people and some fatalities.
Helmand is part of the main bastion of the Taliban and a key drug-producing region of Afghanistan. Violence there has remained high most of the time since Afghan resistance forces and U.S. airstrikes toppled the militants’ government in late 2001.
Images on television and social media showed giant flames and plumes of smoke rising from a site that appeared to be outside the stadium. Some local officials were reportedly among the crowd at the wrestling match.
“I was only several hundred meters away from the site of the explosion, which sounded very massive. I could clearly hear people yelling and crying,” Ahmad Shafiq Barekzai, a shopkeeper from Lashkar Gah, said by phone.
The blast happened just as Afghans elsewhere were celebrating a victory by the country’s cricket playersin a match abroad against Ireland, allowing them to compete for the first time in the Cricket World Cup, which is set for next year.
“Was excited about our cricket victory and saw this,” said Shaharzad Akbar, a prominent women’s rights activist. “Grief is ever present in the shadows, making me feel like I need to protect every moment of joy as the most precious belonging, before it is shattered by some heartbreaking tragedy.”
Friday’s attackcame a day afterthe killing of 33 civilians in a suicide attack in Kabul as people there celebrated Nowruz, the Persian new year that is also marked in Afghanistan.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Kabul attack.