The ISIL (ISIS) armed group has claimed responsibility for a blast at a sports club that killed four people in the Afghan capital.
The hardline Sunni Muslim group said on its Telegram channel on Friday that it had used a parcel bomb that ISIL fighters “placed in a room where [Shia Muslims] gather”.
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The explosion occurred Thursday evening at a commercial centre in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood of Kabul, an enclave of the historically oppressed Shia Hazara community, according to police.
Police were still investigating the cause of the explosion, Kabul police spokesman Khalid Zadran said on Friday afternoon in a message to reporters.
He added that seven people were injured in the blast, revising the initial toll of two dead and nine injured.
Taliban authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The explosion ripped through a sports club several storeys up in the commercial centre, blowing out all the sides of the space and shattering windows and causing damage throughout the block, journalists with the AFP news agency witnessed on Friday.
An instructor at the club, which holds training in combat sports, told AFP the blast happened at the end of a busy boxing session that usually hosted some 30 people.
“The explosion was extraordinarily strong. The walls fell, the metal doors, glass and windows were broken,” said 26-year-old Sultan Ali Amiri, who was not in the club when the blast occurred. “There has been a lot of damage, punching bags and almost everything is destroyed”.
AFP journalists witnessed several heavy bags used for combat sports training on the floor of the club, others still hanging and pocked with fragments from the blast.
Afghanistan’s Hazaras have regularly faced attacks in the majority Sunni Muslim country.
They have been persecuted for decades, targeted by the Taliban during their uprising against the former US-backed government as well as by ISIL.
The ISIL group, which considers Shia Muslims to be heretics, has carried out several deadly attacks in the same area in recent years targeting schools, mosques and gyms.
Images shared on social media shortly after the explosion showed a fire blazing in the sports club and boxing mitts among shattered glass on the ground.
The number of bomb blasts and suicide attacks has reduced dramatically since the Taliban ended their mutiny after seizing power in August 2021, expelling the US-backed government.
However, a number of armed groups – including the regional chapter of ISIL – continue to carry out attacks.