At Least 32 Dead on Nawruz in Suicide Bombing in Kabul
A suicide bomber blew himself up near a shrine in Kabul on Wednesday, 21 March, killing at least 32 people and wounding dozens, as the Afghan capital celebrated the Nawruz holiday marking the start of the Persian new year.
The explosion underlined the threat to the city from militant attacks, despite government promises to tighten security in the wake of an attack in January that killed around 100 people.
Kabul had been on alert for attacks over the Nawruz holiday but the bomber was still able to detonate his explosives as people were leaving the Kart-e Sakhi shrine, in the west of the city.
"When the explosion took place, I fell to the ground and I saw many people on the ground around me," said Ramazan, who was wounded in the blast at the shrine, near the city's main university.
Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danesh said the bomber had apparently intended to reach the shrine, a target of previous militant attacks, but had been prevented from getting closer by police checkpoints.
"We had our security in place in and around the shrine," he said. "All the casualties were young men who were either passing by on the road or gathering to enjoy Nawruz."
Nawruz, an ancient Persian celebration of the start of spring, is widely celebrated in many parts of Afghanistan but has also faced opposition from some fundamentalist Muslims, who say it is un-Islamic.
The seemingly endless attacks have undermined support for the government of President Ashraf Ghani, who offered last month to hold peace talks with Taliban insurgents fighting to drive out international forces and reimpose their version of strict Islamic law.
The Taliban have so far shown little sign of accepting the offer of talks with the Western-backed government, which they consider an illegitimate, foreign-imposed regime, although they have offered to talk to the United States.
(The story has been published in an arrangement with Reuters)