A suicide attacker on foot detonated himself in front of Kabul University as Afghans celebrated Nowruz holiday marking the start of the Persian new year. At least 65 people were wounded in the attack.

Afghan security forces look on near the site of a suicide bombing attack in Kabul on March 21, 2018.
Afghan security forces look on near the site of a suicide bombing attack in Kabul on March 21, 2018. (AFP)

A suicide bomber blew himself up near a Shia shrine in Kabul on Wednesday, killing at least 31 people and wounding dozens, officials said, as the Afghan capital celebrated the Nowruz holiday marking the start of the Persian new year.

The explosion underlined the threat to the city from militant attacks, despite government promises to tighten security in the wake of an attack in January that killed around 100 people.

Daesh, which has claimed several previous attacks on Shia targets, claimed responsibility, its Amaq news agency said. The Afghan Taliban issued a statement denying any connection.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in a statement condemned the attack, calling it a "crime against humanity."

Dr Waheed Majroh, a spokesman for the ministry of public health, said 65 people were wounded in the attack and are being treated in hospitals in the city. Women and children were among the casualties, he said.

Kabul had been on alert for attacks over the Nowruz holiday, but the bomber was still able to detonate his explosives as people were leaving the Kart-e Sakhi shrine, in a heavily Shia area in the west of the city.

"When the explosion took place, I fell to the ground, and I saw many people on the ground around me," said Ramazan, who was wounded in the blast at the shrine, near the city's main university.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danesh said the bomber had apparently intended to reach the shrine, which was attacked during a Shia festival in October 2016, but had been prevented from getting closer by police checkpoints.

"We had our security in place in and around the shrine," he said. "All the casualties were young people who were either passing by on the road or gathering to enjoy Nowruz."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies