At least 14 people were killed on Thursday when a suicide bomber blew up his bomb outside a Kabul wedding hall where a political meeting was being held, officials said.
The jihadist group Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack in a brief statement broadcast via its propaganda agency Amaq.
The attacker tried in vain to enter the building and triggered his charge to a security check, told AFP a spokesman for the police of the Afghan capital, Abdul Basir Mujahid.
“Eight policemen and six civilians were killed while 18 other civilians were injured,” he said.
Najib Danish, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, had previously reported a death toll of nine dead including seven policemen and two civilians. “The kamikaze activated his charge when he was spotted by the police at the entrance,” he said.
Supporters of the powerful governor of Balkh Province (north), Atta Mohammad Noor, were gathered in the hall at the time of the explosion. Mr. Noor himself was absent, said one of his assistants to AFP.
– Political struggles –
“We were leaving the hall after lunch when a huge explosion shook the room, smashing windows and creating chaos and panic,” one of the participants, Harun Mutaref, told AFP. “I saw a lot of bodies including police and civilians bathed in blood.”
“Some of my bodyguards have been injured,” said a Noor supporter, Mohammad Farhad Azimi.
All the windows in the building were blown up by the blast and a car parked nearby burned, an AFP photographer found. The area was quickly cordoned off by dozens of law enforcement officials.
Mr. Noor is a senior official of the Jamiat-e Islami party and a very critical voice for President Ashraf Ghani and his government.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Noor accused a “vicious circle” within the government for this attack.
“Our fight against terrorists and against terrorism and for justice will continue and such actions, whose authors are unknown, will not deter us,” said Noor.
This is not the first time that the Jamiat group is targeted: its leader, Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, survived a bomb attack at a funeral in June.
Political and ethnic rivalries have recently intensified in Afghanistan, where long-delayed parliamentary and local elections are scheduled for 2018, paving the way for a presidential election in 2019.
The announcement Wednesday of the dismissal by President Ashraf Ghani of the head of the Independent Electoral Commission Najibullah Ahmadzai after political and technical blunders, however cast doubt on this calendar.
Noor had hinted in the past that he could run for president in 2019. Recently, he called for the return to Afghanistan of Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, who fled to Turkey in May after being accused of rape and torture in 2016 against a rival.
The attacks have multiplied since the beginning of the year in Kabul, hit at the end of May by its worst attack that had killed at least 150 people. Three attacks, including one against a Shia mosque, killed at least 75 people in the last two weeks of October. In early November, a group of men disguised as police also attacked the headquarters of a television station, killing one person.