At least 12 people were killed and 31 wounded when a suicide attacker blew himself up outside a government ministry in Kabul on Monday, officials said, as employees were leaving their offices early for Ramadan.
The attack comes a day before the government’s unilateral ceasefire with the Taliban is expected to start.
Health ministry spokesperson Waheed Majroh said at least 12 people were killed and 31 wounded in the explosion that happened at the main gate of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development.
Some of those killed were women and children, Ariana News reported police spokesperson Hashmat Stanikzai as saying.
Employees were gathered at the entrance of the compound waiting for a bus to take them home when the suicide bomber blew himself up among the crowd, said rural ministry spokesperson Faridoon Azhand, who was inside the building at the time.
“Unfortunately we have lost some colleagues,” Azhand told AFP.
Employees were leaving their offices at 1 p.m. (0830 GMT) due to the holy month of Ramadan, when most Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, when the suicide attacker struck.
Employees inside the ministry at the time of the attack confirmed hearing a blast.
“An explosion happened at the exit gate of the ministry,” Daud Naimi, director of the communications department at the ministry, told AFP.
“I was in my office when I heard a big blast,” another employee told AFP.
“Most of my colleagues were leaving for the day to go home. I am worried about my colleagues. We are told to stay inside for now.”
Earlier, an education department building was targeted in Jalalabad, but security forces killed the would-be attackers before they could detonate their bombs, Jafar Haand, a reporter with Voice of America’s Pashto service, reported.
Islamic State-Khorasan Province claimed responsibility for the attack on its Amaq news agency.
In Kunduz province, at least 15 Afghan security forces were killed when suspected Taliban fighters attacked a security post before dawn, officials said. Ten soldiers and five police officers were killed.
Ceasefire with the Taliban
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced last week that the government would halt operations against the Taliban for eight days, beginning around June 12, the 27th day of Ramadan, and lasting until the festival of Eid al-Fitr.
On Saturday, the Taliban said their fighters would stop attacking Afghan security forces for the last three days of Eid, the holiday capping Ramadan.
It is the first time the militants have agreed to suspend fighting since the 2001 US invasion, and the move was largely welcomed by war-weary Afghans.
Afghan security forces and the Taliban have vowed to retaliate if attacked during the ceasefire.
The militants have also said their ceasefire does not extend to U.S.-led NATO forces, while Kabul said operations against foreign fighters including Islamic State will continue.
This story was updated on June 11 to add a claim of responsibility from ISKP.
With reporting from AFP