KABUL -- A pair of coordinated suicide bombings claimed to have been carried out by the Islamic State (IS) militant group have rocked central Kabul near the country’s intelligence agency, killing at least 29 people, including two RFE/RL journalists and at least seven other media members.
Police said 45 wounded have also been taken to local hospitals in the April 30 attack, though they fear the number of casualties from the twin attacks may still rise.
Health Ministry officials said a suicide bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up in the Shash Darak area near buildings of the NDS intelligence service.
A second blast followed about 20 minutes later when a suicide bomber pretending to be a reporter blew himself up outside the headquarters of the Urban Development and Housing Ministry among the journalists covering the first explosion.
Video and photographs from the scene show bodies strewn about streets littered with rubble as soldiers and onlookers rush to help the wounded, sirens from a stream of ambulances wailing in the background.
“The targeting of civilians, worshipers in mosques, national and democratic processes, journalists, and freedom of expression are concrete examples of war crimes. This terrorist act is in conflict with Islamic values and human rights,” President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement.
RFE/RL journalists Abadullah Hananzai was one of the nine media members killed in the second attack. AFP has identified Shah Marai, the chief photographer for the agency in Kabul, as another journalist killed in the blast.
Sabawoon Kakar, a journalist for RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan, died later in hospital from wounds suffered in the attack.
AP quoted Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai as saying that four police officers were killed in the explosions.
In a statement issued via its Amaq news agency, IS claimed responsibility for the blasts targeting the headquarters of the "renegade" Afghan intelligence services in Kabul, which come days after the Taliban kicked off an offensive in an apparent rejection of calls for the militants to accept an offer by the Afghan government to hold peace talks.
“We condemn in the strongest terms possible the cowardly attacks in Kabul today by two suicide bombers that killed and injured Afghan forces and innocent Afghan citizens, including Afghan journalists,” General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement.
“Make no mistake, the enemies of Afghanistan cannot win. Actions like this one only strengthen our steadfast commitment to the people of Afghanistan,” he added.
Kabul police chief Dawood Amin said the area near the attacks, which includes many foreign offices, has been sealed off and an investigation was under way.
The news agency dpa reported a separate blast in the southern part of the country that killed 11 children and injured 16 others, including Romanian soldiers.
A suicide bomber detonated himself while the convoy of foreign soldiers drove near a mosque, dpa reported, quoting a local police spokesperson. No claim of responsibility has been made for that attack.
Hananzai was a journalist and video cameraman who had been working on an antinarcotics project for RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan called “Caravan of Poison.”
The incident also comes about one week after a suicide blast killed 60 people and wounded at least 120 outside a voter-registration center in the capital.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the April 22 attack in Dashte Barchi, a heavily Shi'ite-populated area in western Kabul, also through Amaq.
The Sunni group has frequently targeted Afghanistan’s Shi'ite minority, which they view as “apostates.”
The government in Kabul is also battling Taliban militants, who were driven from power by the U.S.-led invasion 17 years ago.
Hundreds of people have died in several attacks in Kabul since the beginning of the year, despite the offer to the Taliban of peace talks "without preconditions" by President Ashraf Ghani.
With reporting by Reuters, AFP, Tolo News, dpa, and AP