A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a voter registration center in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday, killing 57 people and wounding 119 as they waited to receive identity cards, officials said.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the blast, according to the group’s AMAQ news agency. The attack was on a project of key importance to the credibility of President Ashraf Ghani’s Western-backed government, which has pledged to hold parliamentary elections this year.
Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danesh said a bomber on foot approached the center where officials had been issuing identity cards as part of a process of registering voters for the election scheduled for October.
“There were women, children. Everyone had come to get their identity cards,” said Bashir Ahmad, who had been nearby when the attack took place, after weeks of relative calm in the capital.
Voter registration centers have been set up across Afghanistan ahead of long-delayed parliamentary and district council elections due to be held in October and there have been serious concerns that militants might attack them.
President Ghani has been under heavy pressure from his international partners to ensure the elections are held this year, ahead of a presidential election due in 2019, although there has been widespread skepticism that they will take place.
Unless the process of registering millions of voters, many of whom do not have national identity cards, can be completed before winter sets in, the vote would almost certainly have to be postponed until next year.