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11 killed as rockets fired on Shi’ite gathering in Kabul, Islamic State claims

KABUL

The number of people killed in a militant attack on a Shi’ite Muslim gathering in the Afghan capital, Kabul, has risen to 11, up from an earlier estimate of three, the interior ministry said on Friday.

Militants fired mortar bombs at the gathering on Thursday, a commemoration on the anniversary of the death of a leader of the Hazara ethnic minority.

Hundreds of people including top government officials such as Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah and at least three candidates for a July presidential election were at the event.

Nasrat Rahimi, spokesman for the ministry, said in a statement 95 people were wounded in what officials initially described as a rocket attack.

Rahimi said the Taliban planned the attack. On Thursday, the Islamic State militant group said it was responsible.

Sunni Muslim militants, including the Taliban and Islamic State, have repeatedly attacked Hazara people in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan over the years.

Thursday’s attack in the Afghan capital, commemorating the death of a Shiite leader, was claimed by the Islamic State group.

Authorities had put the toll at three dead and 32 wounded late on Thursday.

“Unfortunately the attack led to 11 deaths including three women, and 95 others wounded,” Rahimi told AFP.

The majority of the casualties were civilians, he added.

Rahimi also blamed the Taliban for the attack, despite the IS claim. The Taliban has denied involvement.

Around a dozen mortar shells were fired on those attending the open-air rally marking 24 years since the death of Shiite leader Hazara Abdul Ali Mazari, a security source told AFP.

Fired from the roof of a nearby building, most of the shells are said to have fallen on surrounding houses.

Images of the ceremony, broadcast live on Afghan television, had shown a sudden movement of the crowd with screams and loud explosions before the broadcast was interrupted.

Police quickly surrounded the building from where the shots came, killing two attackers and arresting the main suspect, according to Rahimi.

(AFP/REUTERS)

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