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89 killed in suicide blast in east Afghanistan

Afghan security personnel stand guard near a damaged vehicle following a blast of a remote controlled-bomb on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, July 15, 2014. Gul Agha Hashimi, the chief of criminal investigations with the Kabul police, says the explosion struck a minivan carrying seven staffers of the palace
Afghan security personnel stand guard near a damaged vehicle following a blast of a remote controlled-bomb on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, July 15, 2014. Gul Agha Hashimi, the chief of criminal investigations with the Kabul police, says the explosion struck a minivan carrying seven staffers of the palace's media office on Tuesday morning. The blast killed two passengers and also wounded five people, including the driver. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
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By Rahim Faiez, The Associated Press

KABUL - A suicide bomber blew up his car packed with explosives near a busy market and a mosque in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing 89 people and wounding more than 40, officials said.

The attack in the town of Urgun in Paktika province was the deadliest in months in Afghanistan, underscoring the country's instability as foreign troops prepare to leave by the end of the year.

Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, the Defence Ministry spokesman, said the bomber detonated his explosives-laden vehicle as he drove by the crowded market in the remote town in Urgun district, close to the border with Pakistan.

The military was providing helicopters and ambulances to transport the victims to the provincial capital, Sharan, and so far 42 wounded have been moved to hospitals there, Azimi added.

The explosion also destroyed more than 20 shops and dozens of vehicles, he said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but the Taliban sent a statement to media denying their insurgent group was involved in the Paktika bombing and saying they "strongly condemn attacks on local people."

Many of the victims were buried under the rubble, said Mohammad Reza Kharoti, the administrative chief of Urgun district.

"It was a very brutal suicide attack against poor civilians, he said. "There was no military base nearby."

The bombing was also the first major attack since a weekend deal between the two Afghan presidential contenders brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry averted a dangerous rift in the country's troubled democracy.

One of the two, former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, told The Associated Press on Monday that he would meet his rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, on Tuesday to begin working out the framework for the next government, with participation from both camps and all communities in the country.

But violence has continued unabated in Afghanistan.

Hours before the Paktika blast, a roadside bomb in eastern Kabul ripped through a minivan carrying seven employees of the media office of the presidential palace, killing two of the passengers.

The explosion struck as the vehicle was taking the palace staffers to work, said Gul Agha Hashimi, the chief of criminal investigations with the Kabul police.

Five other people, including the driver, were wounded, said Hashimi, speaking to reporters at the site of the blast. "One passenger survived unharmed," he said.

Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai said it was a remotely detonated device planted along the midsection of a main road.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for that attack in a statement sent to reporters.

Roadside bombings are a major threat to both Afghan security forces and civilians across the country. Such attacks have escalated as the Taliban intensify their campaign ahead of the U.S.-led foreign forces' withdrawal by the end of 2014.

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