At least 27 people were killed in Kabul on Friday after a volley of gunfire rang out at a ceremony attended by top Afghan government officials, an official confirmed.
Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, High Peace Council chairman Abdul Karim Khalili, former Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and a number of other figures fled the site in the capital Kabul, a spokesman of the chief executive told Anadolu Agency.
Abdullah escaped the assault unhurt, spokesman Omaid Maisam said.
Initially, Interior Ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi said at least 18 people got injured in the firing incident that took place at 11.20 a.m. local time (0650GMT).
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“Special units of police reached the spot, all high officials and figures moved from the area safely,” he said in a statement.
Hours later, he confirmed the death toll jumped to 27 with at least 50 more injured.
The top Afghan government officials and politicians along with all in the venue were safely evacuated following gun fires, he told Anadolu Agency.
The armed attackers used an under-construction building nearby to launch the assault, according to Rahimi.
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One attacker was killed and efforts are underway to eliminate the remaining attackers, he added.
Meanwhile, the Taliban quickly rejected any involvement. The group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted that the Taliban were not involved in the attack.
Afghan President Mohammed Ashraf Ghani called it an “inhumane attack against national unity.”
The leader inquired about the wellbeing of his bitter electoral rival Abdullah during a phone conversation.
It came after the U.S. and Taliban reached a landmark peace deal aimed at ending violence in the war-torn country.
The gathering was held to mark the death anniversary of Shia leader Abdul Ali Mazari.
In 2019, a ceremony marking the death anniversary of Mazari — the slain leader of the country’s Shia Hazara community allegedly killed by the Taliban in 1995 — was also attacked in similar fashion, leaving 11 people killed. Daesh claimed that attack.
Anadolu with inputs from GVS News Desk