KABUL: More than 40 people were killed and dozens wounded in a suicide blast targeting the minority sect in Kabul on Thursday, officials said, with chaotic scenes at the city’s hospitals as anguished families sought loved ones. The IS group claimed responsibility for the gruesome assault on the Tabayan cultural centre, the third deadly attack it has claimed in the Afghan capital this month.
Up to 100 people had gathered at the centre to mark the 38th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It is located in western Kabul, in the same building as affiliated Afghan Voice Agency (AVA), an anti-IS media outlet.
“The latest figures we have from this tragic incident shows 41 people have been killed and a further 84 people injured,” health ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh told reporters.
Kabul has become one of the deadliest places in war-torn Afghanistan for civilians in recent months, as the Taliban step up their attacks and IS seeks to expand its presence in the country.
Thursday’s attack saw chaotic scenes at the Istiqlal hospital where ambulances and police pickups brought victims, including women and children. Many of them had suffered severe burns to their faces and bodies, as well as shrapnel wounds, reporters said.
Visibly distressed relatives searching for their loved ones inside the medical facility slapped their heads in fury as they cried and cursed the government for seemingly being unable to end the regular carnage on their streets.
Some were so distraught they crawled on the ground pulling their hair.
Reporters saw more than a dozen badly burned bodies lying on the floor in a room inside the hospital and wooden coffins being delivered so families could take away the remains of loved ones.
Deputy interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the attack — the deadliest since a mosque bombing in October that killed more than 50 worshippers — was followed by two smaller bomb blasts as victims and survivors were leaving the
A journalist with AVA, which is located above the cultural centre, said that more than a hundred people were at the event in the building’s basement, with a number of AVA staff among the victims.
Thursday’s assault comes days after a suicide bomber killed six civilians in a Christmas Day attack near an Afghan intelligence agency compound in the city, which was also claimed by IS.
On December 18, militants from the group stormed an intelligence training compound in Kabul, triggering an intense gunfight with police, two of whom were wounded.
The Middle Eastern militant outfit has gained ground in Afghanistan since it first appeared in the region in 2015, and has scaled up its attacks in Kabul, including on security installations and the country’s minority.
A man attending the anniversary ceremony at Tabayan said he heard a “big boom”.
“When the explosion happened we immediately fled,” he told Tolo News.