KABUL (Agencies) – A suicide attacker blew himself up outside a wedding hall in Kabul killing at least nine people, officials said yesterday, in an apparent attempt to strike a political gathering under way inside.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility, according to Amaq, its official news agency. The Taliban denied involvement.
“We are proud to be martyred because of our country and our rights. This gathering was for the sake of our country to raise our voice,” said witness Jan Mohammad.
Supporters of Atta Mohammad Noor, the powerful governor of the northern province of Balkh and a vocal critic of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, had been holding an event inside the hall at the time of the blast.
Mr Noor was not at the event, one of his aides said.
The bomber tried to enter the building but was stopped at the security checkpoint where he detonated his device, Kabul police spokesman Abdul Basir Mujahid said.
“A number of our police personnel are among the casualties,” Mr Mujahid added.
Interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said seven policemen and two civilians had been killed.
“The bomber detonated himself after he was identified by the police at the entrance gate,” Mr Danish said.
Another nine were wounded including seven police and two civilians, he added.
“After lunch as we were exiting the hall a huge explosion shook the hall, shattering glass and causing chaos and panic,” Harun Mutaref, who was at the gathering, said.
“I saw many bodies including police and civilians lying in blood.”
A photographer said the windows of the wedding hall had been shattered by the force of the blast and a vehicle parked outside was on fire.
Dozens of police and intelligence officers have swarmed the area and blocked access to the public.
Photos posted on Twitter showed multiple bodies of men lying on top of each other in a muddy street and in a drain, and people dragging away the wounded.
Mr Noor, a senior leader of the Tajik-dominated Jamiat-e Islami party, has been an outspoken critic of Mr Ghani and the National Unity Government.