At least 27 people were killed in an attack on a political rally in Kabul on Friday in the deadliest attack in Afghanistan since the US signed a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban.
The attack underscores the apparent lack of security in the heavily fortified Afghan capital just 14 months before the planned withdrawal of all foreign armed forces under an agreement signed on February 29 by the US and Taliban.
Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said women and children were among the dead with 29 other wounded. "Special forces carry out clearance operations against the attackers".
"The numbers will change," he said.
Ministry of Health official Nizamuddin Jalil took a slightly higher toll, saying 29 people were killed and 30 others injured.
The Taliban immediately denied responsibility for the attack that took place at the commemoration of Abdul Ali Mazari – a politician of the Hazara ethnic group, most of whom are Shiites.
In an attack on the same ceremony claimed by an Islamic group last year, at least 11 people were killed by mortar fire.
Rahimi had previously said that gunfire had broken out at a construction site near the ceremony, which is largely Shiite, in the west of the city.
Photos on social media showed that several bodies were collected after the attack.
President Ashraf Ghani condemned the massacre and called it a "crime against humanity".
Many members of the country's political elite attended the ceremony, including Afghan Director General Abdullah Abdullah.
The Home Office later confirmed to reporters that "all senior officials were safely evacuated from the scene."
"We have left the post-fire ceremony and a number of people have been wounded, but I currently have no reports of martyrs," Hazara leader Mohammad Mohaqiq told Tolo News.
– Continued violence –
The incident happened less than a week after the US and Taliban signed a treaty designed to pave the way for the complete withdrawal of foreign troops in 14 months.
The US withdrawal is largely dependent on the Taliban being able to control jihadist forces like the Islamic group.
If such groups remain, the American military also remains.
Fighting has continued to rage across Afghanistan since the agreement was signed, and hopes are high that the agreement will reduce violence and talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
IS, which follows a radical Sunni interpretation of Islam, first became active in Afghanistan in 2015 and held territory in the eastern province of Nangarhar for years.
It has been responsible for a series of terrible bombings, including several in Kabul, targeting the city's Shiite community.
The group has been hit by increasing setbacks in recent months after years of being hunted against its fighters by US and Afghan forces along with several Taliban offensives.
Nevertheless, IS remains in Afghanistan, especially in the eastern province of Kunar near the Pakistani border, which also borders on Nangarhar, and in Kabul.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)