Blasts in Kabul hit near ceremony attended by top officials

2019-03-07 14:21

Several explosions struck on Thursday outside a ceremony in Kabul attended by Afghanistan's chief executive and the former president, both of whom were unharmed, officials said.

There was conflicting information as to the casualty figures in the immediate aftermath of the blasts.

A short while later, Health Ministry official Mohaibullah Zaeer said an initial check of Kabul's hospitals revealed three people have been killed and 32 wounded in the attack but he said the figures were not final.

READ: Attack on checkpoint in western Afghanistan kills 9

Earlier, another official, who was at the ceremony, said seven people were killed and at least 10 were wounded. He spoke on condition of anonymity to talk to reporters. The different accounts on the casualties could not immediately be reconciled.

There was also no claim of responsibility for the explosions.

One person arrested

Nusrat Rahimi, deputy spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, said the blasts were due to mortar shells being fired and that one person has been arrested. Rahimi declined to answer questions on casualties.

The ceremony was commemorating the 1995 death of prominent minority Hazara leader Abdul Ali Mazari, who was killed by the Taliban. Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and former President Hamid Karzai attended the gathering.

There were hundreds of people at the ceremony, said Azizullah Amini, who was in the audience at the commemoration, held at a huge hall on the western edge of Kabul, in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood.

Amini told The Associated Press he heard at least four explosions and that the hall shook as if something was slamming into the ground outside the building. The ceremony quickly ended as people were rattled by the blasts.

Both the Taliban and the Islamic State group stage near-daily attacks across Afghanistan, including in the capital of Kabul.

The IS affiliate has in the past often targeted the ethnic Hazaras, a mainly Shi'ite Muslim minority in Sunni majority Afghanistan. IS has declared war on Shi'ites, considering them heretics and attacking their mosques and educational institutions.

The militant group has often struck in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood, where Hazaras dominate. The Taliban, by contrast, have distanced themselves from attacks on Shi'ites in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, IS claimed responsibility for an attack on Wednesday on a construction company in eastern Nangarhar province that killed at least 17 people and triggered an hours-long gun-battle with Afghan forces, assisted by US troops. The militant group on an affiliated website posted photographs of the two suicide bombers, both Afghan nationals.

The dawn assault started with a suicide bombing outside the gates of a construction company by the airport in Jalalabad, the provincial capital. Afghan officials said a total of five attackers were involved and that all were killed, including two suicide bombers.

Negotiated resolution

Attacks have continued in Afghanistan despite stepped-up US efforts to find a negotiated resolution of the 17-year war, America's longest.

US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is currently holding talks with the Taliban in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, where the insurgents have a political office.

The latest round of talks is now in its second week, which has raised expectations that there could be some progress.

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Read more on:    afghanistan  |  security
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