At least six people were killed by blasts in Kabul during Persian New Year celebrations in a Shiite area of the Afghan capital, authorities said, in the latest violence to hit the war-torn city.
“Twenty-three were wounded and six people were martyred in today’s explosions in Kabul,” health ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar told AFP, with the interior ministry confirming the toll on Thursday, March 21.
In a message to AFP, the Taliban denied responsibility for the attack, which police said had been caused by three remote-controlled mines – one placed in the washroom of a mosque, one behind a hospital, and one in an electricity meter.
The blasts were near Kabul University and the Karte Sakhi shrine, where many Afghans gather every year to mark Nowruz, which is the traditional Persian New Year holiday but considered un-Islamic by Muslim fundamentalists.
“As we celebrate this auspicious day to bind us together our fellow citizens witnessed another devastating day in #Kabul,” President Ashraf Ghani wrote on Twitter.
“We lost peaceful citizens to a coward enemy that knows no bounds.”
Kabul police spokesperson Basir Mujahid said a fourth mine was defused near Kabul University, and that authorities were searching for any others that may have been placed in the area.
But he added that the mines were far from the main site of the celebrations.
Exactly one year ago, a blast near a crowd celebrating at the shrine killed 33 people in an attack claimed by Islamic State Khorasan province.
In September, a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a sports club in Dasht-e-Barchi, a majority Shiite neighborhood of Kabul, killing and wounding nearly 100 people. A month earlier, 48 people were killed in an explosion at an education center in Dasht-e-Barchi.
ISKP said it was behind both attacks.
Interior ministry spokesperson Nasrat Rahimi said police had discovered and defused 20 more explosive devices in Herat, Balkh and Kabul on Thursday.
The National Directorate of Security said that security forces had arrested six ISIS members, including two would-be suicide bombers, in the capital.
ISKP, which regularly targets Shiites in an attempt to stir up sectarian violence in Sunni-majority Afghanistan, has also attacked the shrine once before, in October 2016, when its gunmen killed 18 people gathered there to mark Ashura, an important date for many Muslims, especially Shiites.
With reporting from AFP