A devastating attack involving three suicide bombers in Kabul, Afghanistan has left at 41 dead and dozens more wounded. The Taliban quickly denied any involvement, and ISIS has officially claimed responsibility for the attack.
The explosions occurred around 10:30 am local time near the gate to Tebyan Centre, a Shiite cultural center. The Iran-backed news outlet, Afghan Voice Agancy, reports that one of their journalists was killed and that their headquarters, which are housed in the Tebyan Centre, might have been the target. The attack location is also near an office of the National Directorate of Security (NDS). The Health Ministry reports 84 injuries, while Afghan Voice Agancy reports 89.
December 28 is a significant day in Afghanistan. It has been 38 years since the Soviet invasion of the country and three since the end of NATO’s combat mission and the handing off of many security duties back to local forces. A large group of civilians had gathered in the area for a celebration, making it painfully apparent that the bombers intended to kill civilians. NPR reports:
“I have little doubt that this attack deliberately targeted civilians,” said Toby Lanzer, acting head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. “Today in Kabul we have witnessed another truly despicable crime in a year already marked by unspeakable atrocities.”
The first bomber to act sat amongst students attending a crowded lecture marking the anniversary of the Soviet invasion. The other two detonated their explosives later outside the building, targeting security and medical personnel responding to the initial attack.
The Guardian recounts one student’s perspective from inside the room:
“The hall was packed with the people when there was a blast at the back,” said Ali Abbas Qul, a university student who had attended the lecture. He wept outside a hospital, in clothes still stained with the blood of two friends.
“People started running everywhere, many lost consciousness. I lost my two friends and picked up their bodies. Many of the university students are still missing.”
Kabul has been hit especially hard this year by attacks from both ISIS and the Taliban, though the former has become a much more significant threat than the latter, according to Borhan Osman, Senior Analyst at International Crisis Group for Afghanistan:
According to BBC, ISIS used Amaq, their local propaganda outlet, to claim credit for the attack on the Shias. While the Taliban has not typically been known to target Shias specifically, ISIS officially considers them apostates. They’ve increased their attacks on western Kabul recently, where most of the city’s Shias live, and seem intent on turning the conflict in Afghanistan into an actual war between the two Islamic sects.