Suicide bombers stormed a Shi’ite cultural center and news agency in the Afghan capital on Thursday, killing more than 40 people and wounding scores, many of them students attending a conference.
Islamic State said in an online statement that it was responsible for the attack, the latest in a series the movement has claimed on Shi’ite targets in Kabul.
Waheed Majrooh, a spokesman for the ministry of public health, said 41 people, including four women and two children, had been killed and 84 wounded, most suffering from burns.
The attack occurred during a morning panel discussion on the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Sunni-majority Afghanistan at the Tabian Social and Cultural Centre, witnesses said.
The floors of the center, at the basement level, were covered in blood as wailing survivors and relatives picked through the debris, while windows of the news agency, on the second floor, were all shattered.
“We were shocked and didn’t feel the explosion at first but we saw smoke coming up from below,” said Ali Reza Ahmadi, a journalist at the agency who was sitting in his office above the center when the attack took place.
“Survivors were coming out. I saw one boy with cuts to his feet and others with burns all over their faces,” he said. “About 10 minutes after the first explosion, there was another one outside on the street and then another one.”
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.
The bloodshed followed an attack on a private television station in Kabul last month, which was also claimed by the local affiliate of Islamic State.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a statement on Twitter denying involvement in the attack, which a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani’s office called an “unpardonable” crime against humanity.