KABUL: At least six people were killed and 20 others wounded in a suicide attack in the Afghan capital on Monday.
The Islamic State (IS) terror group claimed responsibility for the attack through its propaganda agency, Amaq.
“A suicide attacker wearing an explosives belt hits a gathering of Shiites near the presidential palace… in Kabul,” Amaq said.
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said at least six people were killed in the blast, which struck in front of a high school in the downtown area of the Afghan capital, near the presidential palace.
Initial reports indicated most of the victims were members of the security forces, but Danish said civilians, including several women, had borne the brunt of the carnage.
The attack hit close to where scores of Afghans had been protesting Taliban attacks on the minority Hazara ethnic group, most of whom belong to the Shia branch of Islam.
“The suicide attacker on foot wanted to target protesters, but he was stopped at a security checkpoint some 200 metres (660 feet) from the site,” Interior Ministry deputy spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.
IS has claimed most suicide attacks in Kabul in recent months.
On October 31, an IS suicide bomber targeting a bus carrying employees of Afghanistan’s biggest prison — also in Kabul — killed at least seven people. That attack came days after a suicide bomber blew himself up near the entrance of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission in the capital, killing at least one person.
A police officer at the scene said he saw 10 to 15 casualties on the ground, as well as body parts. The centre of Kabul was blanketed with heavier-than-usual security for the protest, which began on Sunday night and continued into Monday.
Demonstrators, including university students, had taken to the streets to demand the deployment of military reinforcements to two Hazara-dominated districts in the southeastern province of Ghazni which have been attacked by the Taliban.
In other violence, a Taliban attack on Khak Safid district in the western province of Farah overnight killed up to 40 local police and civilians, provincial council member Dadullah Qaneh told AFP.
“They set the houses of local police members on fire, killed women and children and local police,” Qaneh said. Provincial police spokesman Mohibullah Mohib confirmed the attack, but had no information on the number of casualties.