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Twin Blasts Kill At Least 20 At Kabul Athletic Center

REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter

Two bombs exploded in a heavily Shiite neighborhood of Kabul on Wednesday, killing at least 20 people and leaving 70 others wounded, Afghan officials said.

The first blast came when a suicide bomber detonated inside a wrestling training center, The Associated Press reported, citing a spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry. Moments later, a nearby car bomb exploded as people responded to the first blast, the spokesman said.

The death toll is expected to rise.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings. The attack bore the hallmarks of an operation by Afghanistan’s Islamic State affiliate, which has frequently targeted Shiite gatherings and religious sites.

ISIS claimed responsibility in August for a devastating suicide bombing that struck an educational center in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood in west Kabul. As in Wednesday’s attack, the bomber targeted a facility where mostly young people had gathered. (RELATED: ISIS Claims Suicide Attack That Killed Dozens Of Students At Kabul School)

Afghanistan experienced a surge in violence throughout 2018, as the Taliban has notched several battlefield victories against Afghan army units and come close to overrunning key cities. The U.S.-backed government in Kabul is also struggling to provide security in urban areas, including the capital, which has been hit with several major suicide bombings by Islamic militants. (RELATED: ISIS Suicide Bombing Kills At Least 50 In Afghan Capital)

This year is shaping up to be the deadliest for noncombatants in Afghanistan since 2009, when the UN began a systemic documentation of civilian casualties. Between Jan. 1 and June 30, about 1,700 noncombatants were killed in the country, a 1-percent rise from the same period the year before, according to a UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report.

Afghanistan’s ISIS affiliate was responsible for 52 percent of the civilian casualties, UNAMA said. Another 40 percent were killed by the Taliban, and the remainder were attributed to “unidentified anti-government elements.”

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