Suicide bomber strikes voter registration center, kills 57 in Afghan capital

Suicide bomber kills dozens in Kabul

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A suicide bomber struck a voter registration center in the Afghan capital on Sunday, killing 57 people in an attack claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). More than 100 others were wounded, said officials form the Afghan interior and public health ministries. 

Public Health Ministry spokesman Wahid Majro said that among 57 who were killed in the attack, 22 were women and eight are children. Majro added that 119 people were wounded in Sunday's attack, among them 17 children and 52 women. 

"The tolls could still rise," he added.

Gen. Daud Amin, the Kabul police chief, said the suicide bomber targeted civilians who were registering for national identification cards. The large explosion echoed across the city, shattering windows miles away from the attack site and damaging several nearby vehicles. Police blocked all roads to the blast site, with only ambulances allowed in. Local TV stations broadcast live footage of hundreds of distraught locals gathered at nearby hospitals seeking word about loved ones.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement carried by its Aamaq news agency, saying it had targeted Shiite "apostates." 

A woman mourns at a hospital after a suicide attack in Kabul
A woman mourns at a hospital after a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan April 22, 2018. MOHAMMAD ISMAIL/REUTERS

The attack comes almost a month after another deadly attack by ISIS in which a suicide bomber carried out an attack near a Shiite shrine in Kabul that targeted attendees celebrating the Persian new year. That attack killed 31 people and wounded 65 others.

In a statement issued by the president's office condemned Sunday's attack and quoted President Ashraf Ghani as saying such "terrorist attacks" won't prevent people from participating in upcoming parliamentary elections.

Afghanistan will hold parliamentary elections in October and voter registration started a week ago.

Last week, three police officers guarding voter registration centers in two Afghan provinces were killed by militants, according to authorities.

Afghan security forces have struggled to prevent attacks by the local ISIS affiliate as well as the more firmly established Taliban since the U.S. and NATO concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014. Both groups regularly carry out attacks, with the Taliban usually targeting the government and security forces and ISIS targeting the country's Shiite minority.

Both groups want to establish a strict form of Islamic rule in Afghanistan and are opposed to democratic elections.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, at least five people were killed when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in the northern Baghlan province. Zabihullah Shuja, spokesman for the provincial police chief, said four other people were wounded in Sunday's blast in Puli Khomri, the province's capital.

The Taliban routinely target security forces and government officials with roadside bombs, which often end up killing civilians.

In the northern Balkh province, a district police chief died of his wounds after being shot Saturday during an exchange of gunfire with insurgents, according to Sher Jan Durrani, spokesman for the provincial police chief. He said around a dozen insurgents were also killed in the battle, which is still underway.

Durrani identified the slain commander as Halim Khanjar, police chief for the Char Bolak district.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing. 

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan condemned the attack.

"This senseless violence shows the cowardice and inhumanity of the enemies of democracy and peace in #Afghanistan," he tweeted.