KABUL – At least 40 people were killed and more than 30 injured on Thursday in a suicide attack claimed by the Islamic State group in Kabul on a cultural center of the Shia minority, which houses an Islamic religious school, a mosque and the offices of an Afghan news agency.
The explosion took place around 10:30 am in the Qala-e-Nazar area of western Kabul, said Nasrat Rahimi, spokesperson for the ministry of interior affairs, adding that the victims included women and children.
The spokesperson said that the building where the attack took place also houses the office of the Sada-e-Afghanistan, or Afghan Voice, news agency.
Kabul police spokesperson, Basir Mujahid, told EFE that most of the buildings in the area belong to Shias and he “strongly believed” that the attacked cultural center is also owned by them.
Mujahid said that a militant detonated himself on the first floor of the building where an event was in progress, while the news agency offices were located on the upper floor.
He added that although later there were two more bomb blasts near the building’s main entrance, almost all the casualties resulted from the initial suicide attack.
Terror group Islamic State has claimed responsibility of the attack.
In a message released by propaganda website Amaq – linked to the group – IS said on Thursday that a suicide bomber belonging to the group had attacked the cultural center, also alleging that the center received support from Iran.
IS claimed that the attack had killed 100 people and hurt at least 120.
The Sada-e-Afghanistan agency reported on its website that the cultural center was hosting a seminar about the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan of 1979-1989 when the attack took place.
Attacks on the Shia minority are common in Afghanistan and the last major attack against them in October – also claimed by the IS – killed 39 and injured 45 people in Kabul.
Since the end of the NATO’s combat mission in January 2015, the government has been steadily losing ground to insurgents and now controls only 57 percent of the country, according to the US Special Inspector General for Reconstruction of Afghanistan.