A suicide bomber blew himself up near a major Shiite shrine in Kabul Wednesday, killing at least 29 people on the first day of celebrations for the Persian new year.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack via its affiliated Amaq website. It was the latest in a long string of attacks on Shiite targets in the past several years, seen as attempts to create sectarian tensions between majority Sunni Afghans and minority Shiites.
Some attacks have been claimed by the Taliban, but its agent denied any role in the Wednesday attack, which also left at least 50 people injured.
Officials said the lone attacker mingled with crowds marking the new year, known as Nawruz, leaving the domed Sakhi shrine on a hillside in western Kabul. The attacker then detonated the blast among pedestrians near Kabul University and a government hospital.
Health officials said the dead and wounded included women and children, though no further details were immediately available. Nawroz traditionally draws families to the popular shrine, and all Afghans in the community were off from work and school for the holiday.
Abdul Manan Rasuli, 24, who lives a block away from the blast site, said he saw “huge flames and dust rising in the sky.”
Shoes, sandals and bits of human flesh were strewn on the ground nearby, and the water in a roadside ditch had turned rust-colored.
“We are walking on blood on every street,” said Jawed Kazemi, 60, a resident passing by. He pointed to red stains on the road.
“This is our life,” he said angrily, cursing President Ashraf Ghani. “Poor people are dying. Why doesn’t Ghani order terrorists to be hanged?”
The Sakhi shrine was previously attacked in October 2016, killing at least 17 people and wounding another 62, during the Shiite holy day of mourning day known as Ashura. Gunmen wearing Afghan security uniforms burst into the shrine filled with worshipers and battled police for several hours. The Islamic State claimed it had orchestrated that attack.
The attack came less than two weeks after nine people were killed by a suicide bomber who attempted to join a mass public gathering. The event was being held to commemorate a Shiite Hazara leader who was killed by the Taliban in 1995. Police stopped a suspect at a checkpoint just outside the event.
It also followed an attempted suicide attack on an education center for science and math in the same community Monday, when a man wearing a suicide vest entered a classroom containing several hundred students and tried unsuccessfully to detonate his explosives, then threw a grenade that wounded six students.