A suicide attack on an office of the Afghan Voice news agency and a neighboring Shi‘ite cultural center in the capital Kabul killed dozens on Thursday, officials and witnesses said, with many of the victims students attending a conference.
Interior Ministry deputy spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said at least 40 people had been killed and 30 wounded in the blast, the latest in a series to have hit media organizations in Kabul.
The attack occurred during a morning panel discussion on the 38th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Sunni-majority Afghanistan at the Tabian Social and Cultural Centre, with many of those attending students, witnesses said.
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 Shi‘ite Muslim area in the west of the capital, and a number of dead and wounded on the ground.
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.
President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman issued a statement calling the attack an “unpardonable” crime against humanity and pledging to destroy terrorist groups.
Afghan Voice has Shi‘ite links but there was no immediate claim of responsibility. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued statement on Twitter denying involvement.
The attack, the latest in a series to hit Afghan media groups in recent years, follows an attack on a private television station in Kabul last month.
Backed by the heaviest U.S. air strikes since the height of the international combat mission in Afghanistan, Afghan forces have forced the Taliban back in many areas and prevented any major urban center from falling into the hands of insurgents. Reuters.com