Afghans mourn as death toll in Kabul attack jumps to 55

Afghans mourn as death toll in Kabul attack jumps to 55

KABUL: Minutes after he took a seat among hundreds of religious scholars at a ceremony for the Prophet Mohammad´s birthday in Kabul, a huge explosion shook the room, throwing Ahmad Fareed to the floor.

Public Health Ministry spokesperson Wahid Majroh on Wednesday said that 55 people were killed and 94 others were wounded in the attack, updating a previous toll.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish says hundreds of scholars and clerics had gathered to mark the occasion in a large wedding hall in the capital.

Dozens of ambulances rushed to the site of the blast, according to videos posted on Twitter.

While no militant group has yet taken responsibility, Monday's blast comes as Afghanistan's ongoing 17-year conflict tips in favor of the Taliban.

In August, at least 34 people were killed in an attack which targeted an education center. The victims were celebrating the birth anniversary of the Holy Prophet Muhammad when the blast occurred at a wedding hall in Kabul.

"Everything was covered with smoke and dust", he said.

Though Sunni themselves, Taliban and Islamic State fighters have targeted religious scholars aligned with the Afghan government in the past.

The body of religious leaders targeted in June, known as the Afghan Ulema Council, had issued a decree against suicide attacks and called for peace talks.

The Kabul government now controls only 56% of Afghan territory, down from 72% in 2015, according to a US government report issued this month.

But they are bitterly divided over leadership, ideology and tactics, with the Taliban mainly targeting security forces and government officials, and IS specializing in sectarian attacks on civilians.

Khalilzad has declared a deadline of April 20 - when Afghanistan's presidential election falls due - to end the war, but the country's security situation has worsened since North Atlantic Treaty Organisation formally ended combat operations in 2014.



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