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Dozens Killed In Kabul Attack Claimed By Islamic State

Updated

Foreign security personnel and Afghan police arrive at the site of the attack in Kabul on March 6.

KABUL -- Gunmen have opened fire at a ceremony in Kabul, killing at least 32 people in the first major attack in the Afghan capital since the United States and Taliban agreed to a troop withdrawal.

The Health Ministry said that 58 people were also wounded in the March 6 attack, which was claimed by Islamic State (IS) militants, according to the extremist group's Amaq news agency.

Five women were among those killed in the attack targeting a memorial marking the anniversary of the death of a Shi'ite leader that was attended by several high-level officials, including Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who escaped unharmed.

IS militants, who see Shi'a as heretics, claimed responsibility for a similar assault at the same memorial last year.

The Interior Ministry said the March 6 attack triggered sporadic clashes between special police forces and gunmen in the area. "Three terrorists" were killed and the area was "cleared," it later said.

The IS group said two brothers had targeted the gathering with machine guns, hand grenades, and rocket-propelled grenades.

Police said gunfire had erupted from a construction site near the event.

The Taliban, which signed a deal with the United States last week aimed at putting an end to the 18-year war in Afghanistan, immediately denied responsibility for the assault.

At the United Nations, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the attack “unacceptable" and said that "those who carry out such crimes must be held accountable," according to spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

"The attack is an inhuman crime against the national unity of Afghanistan," President Ashraf Ghani said on Twitter.

"The security forces will deal decisively with the culprits of this event," he added.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that Washington "condemns in the strongest terms today's despicable" attack.

"Attacking the innocent and defenseless at a memorial event is a sign of weakness, not a show of strength. Our thoughts are with victims and their families, as well as the brave Afghan security forces who defended against the terrorists," he said.

The attendees had been commemorating the death of Abdul Ali Mazari, an ethnic Hazara leader who was killed in 1995 after being taken prisoner by the militants.

Abdullah, runner-up in the last three Afghan presidential elections, has served as chief executive of a coalition government since 2014. He has disputed all three election losses.

With reporting by Reuters,AFP, and Tolo News
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