Attackers stormed a Shia Muslim cultural centre in the Afghan capital Thursday, setting off multiple bombs and killing at least 35 people and wounding at least 56, authorities said.
Interior Ministry spokesperson Najib Danish said an unknown number of suicide attackers set off an explosion outside the centre before storming it. They then set off explosive devices in the basement of the building where scores of people had gathered to mark the December 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the former Soviet Union, he said.
Shia leader Abdul Hussain Ramazandada said witnesses reported at least one suicide bomber sneaked into the event and was sitting among the participants. He exploded his device and as people fled more explosions occurred.
The centre is located in the Shia-dominated Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood in the west of the capital.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but the local Islamic State affiliate has carried out several attacks targeting Shias in Afghanistan. The Islamic State also issued a warning earlier this year following an attack on the Iraqi Embassy in Kabul vowing to target Afghanistan’s Shia community. Since then, ISIS has taken credit for at least two attacks on Shia mosques in Kabul and one in the western city of Herat, killing scores of worshippers.
In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid denied involvement in Thursday’s attack on the cultural centre.
The Islamic State affiliate, made up of Sunni extremists, view Shias as apostates. The ISIS affiliate is a mix of Uzbek militants belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan who broke with the Taliban, as well as disenchanted insurgents who left the much larger and more well-established Taliban.
Attack on ‘all human values’
As attacks targeting Shias have increased in Kabul, residents of this area have grown increasingly afraid. Most schools have additional armed guards from among the local population. Still, Ramazandada said security at the cultural centre was light.
Afghan president Ashraf Ghani called the attack a “crime against humanity.”
In a statement released by the presidential palace, Ghani said: “The terrorist have killed our people. The terrorists have attacked our mosques, our holy places and now our cultural centre.” He called them attacks against Islam and “all human values.”
Separately, Dawlat Abad District Gov. Mohammad Karim said a powerful mine killed six shepherd children ranging in age from eight to 10 on Wednesday.
No one immediately took responsibility for the attack but Karim blamed the Taliban, saying the insurgents planted the mine to target Afghan officials and security forces.
Afghanistan has the highest number of mine victims in the world, which along with other roadside bombs, kill or wound an estimated 140 people every month.
Elsewhere, a Taliban attack on a security police post in central Ghazni province Wednesday night left three police dead and one other wounded, said Mohammad Zaman, provincial chief of police.