Suicide bombers killing more than 40 people at Shi‘ite cultural centre in Afghan capital

People carry a mourning man at a hospital after a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan December 28, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Vastavam web: Suicide bombers stormed a Shi‘ite 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.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.The floor of the centre, at the basement level, was 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 Islamic State.Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a statement on Twitter denying involvement in the attack, which was condemned by both the Kabul government and Afghanistan’s international partners including NATO and the United Nations.Over the past two years, Islamic State in Khorasan, as the local group is known, has claimed a growing number of attacks on Shi‘ite targets in Afghanistan, where sectarian attacks were previously rare.The statement said the centre received Iranian support and was one of the largest centres of Shi‘ism in Afghanistan, sending youths to Iran for academic training.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.