Kabul, March 21 (IANS) An Islamic State suicide bomber killed at least 29 people in Kabul who were celebrating the Persian New Year on Wednesday, according to Afghan government officials.
Nasrat Rahimi, the deputy spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, initially said that a suicide bomber on foot detonated his explosives in front of the Ali Abad Hospital, in the Kart-e Sakhi area of Kabul, killing 26 and wounding 18. Later, Wahid Majrooh, the spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health, put the death toll at 29, with 52 wounded, TOLONews reported.
There were reports that the bomber had tried but failed to reach an even bigger crowd celebrating Nawroz, in front of a nearby Shia shrine in Kart-e Sakhi.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombing, according to a report on its website, Amaq, as monitored by the SITE Intelligence Group. The group’s local affiliate has repeatedly targeted Shiites in the Afghan capital over the past year, most recently on March 9, when 10 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque complex.
The Nowroz celebration, however, drew many people from other ethnic groups, who were among the victims as well, according to a reporter who recounted seeing numerous children and women among the dead and wounded.
“Most of the wounded were initially taken to three hospitals in Istiqlal, Aliabad and Ibn-e-Sina, located near the explosion site. After providing basic treatment, the wounded have been transferred to other specialised ones,” Health Ministry spokesperson Wahidullah Majroh said.
President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack and expressed his condolences to the families of the victims.
The shrine had been attacked before. At least 14 people were killed in October 2016 as Shias prepared for a religious day of mourning during the festival of Ashura. A bombing in 2011 killed at least 59 people.
There were a string of similar attacks in the Afghan capital this year, with the largest attack carried out at the end of January when the Taliban detonated an ambulance full of explosives in the central district of Kabul, killing over 100 people.
Kabul authorities overhauled the security plan of the city after the attack, establishing a new system to prevent large-scale terror strikes.