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Islamic State-claimed suicide attack kills 41 in Kabul

Afghans are seen through a the shattered window of Shia cultural centre after a suicide attack in Kabul on December 28, 2017.

Afghans are seen through a the shattered window of Shia cultural centre after a suicide attack in Kabul on December 28, 2017.   | Photo Credit: AP

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An office of the Afghan Voice news agency and a Shia cultural centre were hit; many of the victims were students attending a conference.

Suicide bombers stormed a Shia cultural centre and news agency in the Afghan capital on Thursday, killing more than 40 people and wounding scores, many of them students attending a conference.

Islamic State (IS) said in an online statement that it was responsible for the attack, the latest in a series the movement has claimed on Shia targets in Kabul.

Waheed Majrooh, a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health, said 41 people, including four women and two children, had been killed and 84 wounded, most suffering from burns.

Panel discussion

The attack occurred during a morning panel discussion on the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan at the Tabian Social and Cultural Centre, witnesses said.

The floors of the centre, at the basement level, were covered in blood as wailing survivors and relatives picked through the debris, while windows of the news agency, on the second floor, were all shattered.

“We were shocked and didn’t feel the explosion at first but we saw smoke coming up from below,” said Ali Reza Ahmadi, a journalist at the agency who was sitting in his office above the centre when the attack took place.

Deputy Health Minister Feda Mohammad Paikan said 35 bodies had been brought into the nearby Istiqlal hospital. Television pictures showed many of the injured suffered serious burns. The bloodshed followed an attack on a private television station in Kabul last month, which was also claimed by the local affiliate of the IS.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a statement on Twitter denying involvement in the attack, which a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani’s office called an “unpardonable” crime against humanity.

Over the past two years, the IS in Khorasan, as the local group is known, has claimed a growing number of attacks on Shia targets in Afghanistan, where sectarian attacks were previously rare. The movement, which first appeared in eastern Afghanistan in 2015, has extended its reach steadily although many security officials question its ability to conduct complex attacks and believe it has help from criminals or other militant groups.

Sayed Abbas Hussaini, a journalist at the agency, said there appeared to have been more than one explosion during the attack, following an initial blast at the entrance to the compound housing the two offices. He said one reporter at the agency had been killed and two wounded.

Photographs sent by witnesses showed what appeared to be serious damage at the site, in a heavily Shia Muslim area in the west of the capital, and a number of dead and wounded on the ground.

women mourn inside a hospital compound after a suicide attack in Kabul on December 28, 2017.

women mourn inside a hospital compound after a suicide attack in Kabul on December 28, 2017.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

 

12 attacks, 700 deaths

Prior to Thursday’s attack, there had been at least 12 attacks on Shia targets since the start of 2016, in which almost 700 people were killed or wounded, according to UN figures. Before that, there had only been one major attack, in 2011.

“This gruesome attack underscores the dangers faced by Afghan civilians,” rights group Amnesty International said in a statement from its South Asia Director, Biraj Patnaik. “In one of the deadliest years on record, journalists and other civilians continue to be ruthlessly targeted by armed groups.” The U.S. embassy in Kabul also issued a statement condemning the attack and pledging continued U.S. support.

According to a report this month by media freedom group Reporters without Borders, Afghanistan is among the world’s most dangerous countries for media workers with two journalists and five media assistants killed doing their jobs in 2017, before Thursday’s attack.

According to Sayed Abbas Hussaini, a journalist at Afghan Voice, one reporter at the agency was killed in Thursday’s attack and two were wounded.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 9:12:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/blast-at-afghan-news-agency-office-in-kabul-casualties-feared/article22291923.ece

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