Afghanistan: Explosions target political gathering in Kabul

A government official says three people have died in the multiple explosions that hit a rally by Shia Muslims.

    Afghan security forces keep watch near the site of an attack in Kabul [Omar Sobhani/Reuters]
    Afghan security forces keep watch near the site of an attack in Kabul [Omar Sobhani/Reuters]

    At least three people have died after multiple explosions targeted a political gathering attended by Afghanistan's chief executive and a former president in the capital Kabul, government officials said.

    "We have reports of explosions in the western part of Kabul. Investigations have been launched," said Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman at the interior ministry.

    Another source at the interior ministry told the local media that the source of the explosions came from someone firing mortar shells from a house in Kabul's District 18.

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    There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

    An official who was at the ceremony, speaking on condition of anonymity, however, told The Associated Press that seven people were killed and 10 wounded. The different accounts of casualties could not immediately be reconciled.

    Earlier, a senior interior ministry official said the attackers could have targeted a large gathering of Shia Muslims attending a commemoration on the anniversary of a leader's death at Musala-e-Mazari compound

    Hundreds of people were attending the Kabul meeting to mark the 24th anniversary of the death of Abdul Ali Mazari, leader of the Hezb-e-Wahdat party.

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    Mazari was killed by the Taliban after he was taken prisoner by them in 1995.

    'High-value targets'

    Al Jazeera's Charlotte Bellis said military vehicles were heading to the site.

    "There was intelligence last night that this [gathering] may be attacked as there are many high-value targets," she said, reporting from Kabul.

    The country's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and former president were both in attendance and unharmed, AFP news agency reported.

    Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani - who was at the scene - later tweeted "terrorists launched rocket attacks on commemoration ceremony," and said he escaped safely.

    "The ministry of interior told us they have arrested one person they believe to have fired one rocket and that special forces have surrounded a house nearby to where this gathering took place where they believe the rockets were sent from," Bellis said.

    Speaking to local news agency Tolo, a witness said security forces were attempting to evacuate the attendees, and that the area had already been cordoned off.

    "The people I saw who were evacuated were those inside their own homes, which had smoke and fire coming out of them," the unnamed witness said. 

    "People were trying to get to any means of transport available in order to evacuate the wounded quickly to the hospital," he added. "One of the injured was lying on a cart."

    Men take an injured person to the hospital after attacks in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]


    The incident came as the United States and the Taliban continue to hold peace talks in Qatar aimed at ending the nearly 18-year conflict.

    The last major attack in Kabul occurred in January when the Taliban claimed responsibility for a car bomb that struck the heavily fortified Green Village foreign compound.

    Heavy snowfall across large swaths of Afghanistan has led to a reduction in violence this winter, but warmer weather in the country's south is likely to lead to an increase in bloodshed.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies