Blasts in Kabul hit near ceremony attended by top officials

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – Several explosions struck Thursday outside a ceremony in Kabul attended by Afghanistan’s chief executive and the former president, both of whom were unharmed, officials said. There was conflicting information as to the casualty figures.

An official with the city’s ambulance services, Mohammad Asim, said five people were wounded in the explosions and were taken to local hospitals. More ambulances were at the site to ferry the injured, Asim added.

Another official, who was at the ceremony, said seven people were killed and 10 wounded. He spoke on condition of anonymity to talk to reporters. The different accounts on the casualties could not immediately be reconciled.

There was also no claim of responsibility in the immediate aftermath of the blasts.

However, Nusrat Rahimi, deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said the blasts were due to mortar shells being fired and that one person has been arrested. Rahimi declined to answer questions on casualties.

The ceremony was commemorating the 1995 death of prominent minority Hazara leader Abdul Ali Mazari, who was killed by the Taliban. Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and former President Hamid Karzai attended the gathering.

There were hundreds of people at the ceremony, said Azizullah Amini, who was in the audience at the commemoration, held at a huge hall on the western edge of Kabul, in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood.

Amini told The Associated Press he heard at least four explosions and that the hall shook as if something was slamming into the ground outside the building. The ceremony quickly ended as people were rattled by the blasts.

Both the Taliban and the Islamic State group stage near-daily attacks across Afghanistan, including in the capital of Kabul.

The IS affiliate has in the past often targeted the ethnic Hazaras, a mainly Shiite Muslim minority in Sunni majority Afghanistan. IS has declared war on Shiites, considering them heretics and attacking their mosques and educational institutions.

The militant group has often struck in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, where Hazaras dominate. The Taliban, by contrast, have distanced themselves from attacks on Shiites in Afghanistan.

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