KABUL, Afghanistan—A suicide bomber detonated an explosion at an education center on Friday, killing at least 19 people, including many women, in the latest attack targeting the country’s Shiite minority.
The assailant shot his way into the center’s exam hall, where some 400 students were taking a practice university entrance exam, and then set off a blast, a teacher at the center said. The education center included a partition to separate male and female students and the attack took place on the female side, students from the center told an Afghan news channel.
Kabul police spokesman Khalid Zadran said that the attack also left 27 students injured. The numbers could rise.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but many recent attacks in Shiite neighborhoods have been carried out by the local branch of the Islamic State militant group, which has been violently opposing the Taliban regime which seized power a year ago.
The Islamic State regards Shiites as apostates. In Afghanistan, Shiites are mostly from the Hazara ethnic minority.
Qarban Ali’s niece, 22-year-old Samira, was injured in the neck and shoulder. He said she told him that she heard gunshots outside the exam hall and the screams of students. She then saw a man enter the exam hall and then the blast followed.
“Our enemies launch such attacks to kill Shiite Hazaras and unfortunately the Taliban government failed to prevent such attacks on the Shiite community,” said Mr. Ali.
the spokesman for the Taliban, condemned the attack, calling it a “great horror.”
“We share our deep feelings and sorrow with the families of the victims. In order to receive and punish the perpetrators of this event, necessary measures will be taken,” Mr. Mujahid said.
Many of the previous attacks have also targeted schools and education centers in the Hazara area of Kabul where Friday’s attack took place.
The U.S. charge de affairs for Afghanistan, Karen Decker, said in a tweet that “targeting a room full of students taking exams is shameful; all students should be able to pursue an education in peace & without fear.”
Abdul Sayed, an independent expert on jihadist groups in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, said that Islamic State Khorasan Province, or ISKP, was the main suspect.
“This attack is probably part of the ISKP’s bloody strategy, which wants to refute the Taliban’s claims of establishing peace in the country,” said Mr. Sayed. “The purpose behind such heinous attacks is to prove that ISKP maintains an existence in the country despite the Taliban’s claims to have eradicated it.”
—Saeed Shah contributed to this article.
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