By Shadi Khan Saif
At least 29 people were killed and dozens of others injured in a suspected suicide blast in capital Kabul on Wednesday, according to officials and local media reports.
Interior Ministry deputy spokesman Nusrat Rahimi said a suicide bomber targeted a gathering to mark the spring festival of Nevruz in the capital’s Karta-e-Sakhi neighborhood.
Rahimi said most of the dead and injured were civilians.
Ministry of Health spokesman Waheed Majroh put the death toll at 29 and injury toll at 50.
The blast took place close to a shrine considered sacred by the country's ethnic Shia Hazara community, where an annual gathering to mark Nevruz was being held.
Daesh later claimed responsibility for the attack.
In a statement on its propaganda website, the terror group said it targeted Shias gathering for Nevruz celebrations.
President Ashraf Ghani called the incident a “terrorist attack against humanity”.
“Terrorist acts and crimes cannot deny us our joy and happiness, education and daily life, progress and development and national and religious festivals,” Ghani said.
Tolo News quoted Kabul's acting Police Chief Dawood Amin as saying police were aware of a threat to the gathering and security had been ramped up; however, the suicide bomber still managed to detonate his explosives among a group of pedestrians.
The Shia Hazara community has been on the hit list of militants in Afghanistan and several attacks have specifically targeted them.
The Nevruz festival held on March 21 has been celebrated in more than 18 centuries across Anatolia and Asia.
It is mainly marked in Iran, Afghanistan, India, and Turkic republics such as Azerbaijan, Caucasus countries, Albania and Macedonia.
The festival -- which is considered as a forerunner of spring -- is a UN-recognized international cultural day.