A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a voter registration centre in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday, killing at least 57 people and injuring more than 100, in the most serious attack yet on preparations for elections scheduled for October.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on a project of key importance to the credibility of President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which has been under international pressure to ensure long-delayed parliamentary polls take place this year.
Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danesh said a bomber on foot approached the centre where officials were issuing identity cards as part of the registration process for around 10 million voters across Afghanistan. Registration began this month.
President Ghani issued a statement condemning the attack and said it “cannot divert us from our aims or weaken this national democratic process”.
A spokesman for the ministry of public health said at least 57 people were confirmed dead and 119 wounded, but the total could still rise.
The explosion destroyed cars and shattered windows in nearby buildings, leaving rubble strewn across the blood-stained street.
It was the deadliest blast in Kabul since about 100 people were killed in January by a bomb concealed in an ambulance and it came after repeated warnings that militants could try to disrupt the election process.
Tadamichi Yamamoto, the senior United Nations official in Afghanistan issued a statement condemning the attack.
“Compounding the callous disregard for the lives of civilians, the killing appears to be part of a wholly unacceptable effort by extremists to deter Afghan citizens from carrying out their constitutional right to take part in elections,” he said.
After weeks of relative calm, the blast took place in Dasht-e Barchi, an area of western Kabul inhabited by many members of the mainly Shi’ite Hazara minority, which has been repeatedly hit by attacks claimed by Islamic State.