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Islamic State claims Kabul suicide bombing that killed over 40 people

Some anguished relatives were so distraught they crawled on the ground pulling their hair.

AFGHANISTAN-KABUL-SUICIDE ATTACK People gather at the Shiite cultural centre after it was bombed today. Source: PA Images

Updated at 7pm

MORE THAN 40 people were killed and dozens wounded in a suicide blast targeting Shiites in Kabul today, officials said, with chaotic scenes at the city’s hospitals as anguished families sought loved ones.

The Sunni Islamic State group (IS) claimed responsibility for the gruesome assault on the pro-Iranian 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.

Afghanistan Source: Rahmat Gul via PA Images

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.

Today’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, AFP 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.

AFP 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.

Afghanistan Afghans look through the shattered window of the Shiite cultural centre after today's suicide attack. Source: AP/PA Images

Deputy interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told AFP the attack – the deadliest since a Shiite mosque bombing in October that killed more than 50 worshippers – was followed by two smaller bomb blasts as victims and survivors were leaving the scene.

A journalist with AVA, which is located above the cultural centre, said that more than 100 people were at the event in the building’s basement, with a number of AVA staff among the victims.

Today’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 18 December 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 jihadist 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 Shiite minority.

Afghanistan People carry an injured woman into the hospital after a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan Source: Rahmat Gul via PA Images

‘Big boom’ 

A man attending the anniversary ceremony at Tabayan said he heard a “big boom”.

“We do not know the numbers (of casualties). When the explosion happened we immediately fled,” he told Tolo News.

Mohammad Hasan Rezayee, a university student also at the ceremony, told Tolo News he had suffered burns to his face in the blast. Speaking from his hospital bed, he said:

We were inside the hall in the second row when an explosion from behind took place. I did not see the bomber who detonated himself.

“After the blast there was fire and smoke inside the building and everyone was pleading for help.”

Photos posted on Afghan Voice Agency’s Facebook page showed the inside of a compound with debris and bodies lying on the ground.

Security in Kabul has been ramped up since 31 May when a massive truck bomb ripped through the diplomatic quarter, killing some 150 people and wounding around 400 others – mostly civilians. No group has yet claimed that attack.

Religious attacks in Afghanistan have skyrocketed in the past two years with the minority Shiite community the main target, the United Nations said in November.

IS, a Suni extremist group, has claimed most of the attacks on Shiite worshippers as it seeks to stir up sectarian violence in the country.

Afghan media has also previously been targeted by militants, underlying the risks faced by journalists in the war-torn country.

© AFP 2017

Read: Vladimir Putin says St Petersburg supermarket explosion was ‘an act of terror’>

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