Suicide attack kills at least 40 in Kabul

KABUL • At least 40 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack on a meeting of top clerics in Kabul yesterday, officials said, in one of the deadliest strikes in the Afghan capital in months.

It follows a wave of violence across war-torn Afghanistan in recent weeks that has killed hundreds of people as militants step up attacks.

Another 60 people were wounded in the blast, Health Ministry spokesman Wahid Majroh said. The attack targeted a gathering of religious leaders, including members of the Ulema Council, at a wedding hall to mark the Prophet Mohammad's birthday.

"The suicide bomber detonated himself inside the hall during a ceremony," said Kabul police spokesman Basir Mujahid, confirming the casualty toll.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said the number of dead or hurt was "more than 50" so far.

A manager of Uranus Wedding Palace, which also hosts political and religious functions, told Agence France-Presse that a suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of the gathering of religious scholars.

"There are a lot of casualties - I myself have counted 30 casualties," he said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group has claimed most recent suicide attacks in Kabul, which has become the deadliest place in the country for civilians.

Yesterday's strike is the bloodiest assault in the Afghan capital since a twin bomb attack on a wrestling club in September that killed at least 26 people.

Last month's parliamentary elections sparked a wave of deadly violence across the country, with hundreds killed or wounded in poll-related attacks.

 

It is not the first time that religious scholars have been targeted by militants in the deeply religious country.

In June, a suicide bomber struck near a gathering of clerics in Kabul, about an hour after the group had proclaimed such attacks a sin.

The latest attack comes as the Taleban intensifies pressure on Afghan security forces, even as the international community ramps up efforts to convince the group to engage in peace talks.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2018, with the headline 'Suicide attack kills at least 40 in Kabul'. Print Edition | Subscribe