Kabul explosion kills 40 at gathering of clerics

Kabul,Afghanistan,Kabul religious gathering

At least 40 people have been killed and 80 others wounded in an explosion inside a very large wedding hall on the airport road in Kabul city center.

The blast ripped through a venue near the city's worldwide airport, where a gathering of religious scholars was taking place, the Afghan interior ministry said. He said the death toll could rise.

Health Ministry spokesman Wahid Majrooh told RFE/RL that 24 of the injured were in critical condition following the November 20 blast, which targeted a gathering at a wedding hall to mark the Prophet Muhammad's birthday. He said police had not been asked to provide security for the event, and that the bomber had easily slipped into the hall.

"Initial information suggests it was caused by a suicide bomber", interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said.

He said the number of dead and wounded was "more than 50" so far.

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No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but both the Taliban and a local Islamic State affiliate have targeted religious scholars aligned with the government in the past.

In June a suicide bomber struck near a gathering of clerics in Kabul, about an hour after the group had proclaimed such attacks a sin.

The Afghan Ulema Council had issued a religious order, or fatwa, declaring suicide attacks forbidden, or "haram", under the principles of Islam. IS said it had targeted "tyrant clerics" who were siding with the USA -backed government.

Afghan Taliban denied involvement and condemned the attack, in a statement.

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