Gunmen Besiege Kabul Compound as Afghans Mourn Shite Dead

Relatives pray near to the dead bodies of civilians after Wednesday's deadly suicide bombing that targeted a training class in a private building in the Shiite neighborhood of Dasht-i Barcha, in western Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Relatives pray near to the dead bodies of civilians after Wednesday's deadly suicide bombing that targeted a training class in a private building in the Shiite neighborhood of Dasht-i Barcha, in western Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

KABUL, Afghanistan — Gunmen besieged a compound belonging to the Afghan intelligence service in Kabul on Thursday, police said, as the city's Shiite residents held funeral services for the victims of a horrific suicide bombing the previous day that left 34 dead.

Police officer Abdul Rahman told The Associated Press from the location of the morning siege in a northwestern neighborhood of Kabul that the gunmen were holed up in a partially constructed building near the compound from where they were opening fire.

The shooting — which underscored the near-daily, persistent threats in war-battered Afghanistan — was sporadic and it wasn't immediately clear how many gunmen are involved in the assault. Afghan security personnel have surrounded the building and have the situation under control, he said.

Kabul's police spokesman, Hashmat Stanekzi, said there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Authorities meanwhile revised the death toll from Wednesday's bombing in Kabul's neighborhood of Dasht-e-Barchi to 34 killed, not 48.

Most of the victims were young men and women, high school graduates preparing for university entrance exams in the Shiite area's educational center when the bomber walked into the building and blew himself up.

The city's hospitals were overwhelmed in the immediate aftermath of the bombing as officials collected data on the casualties, leading to the confusion and the wrong toll.

The Dasht-e-Barchi area is populated by members of Afghanistan's minority ethnic Hazaras — a Shiite community that has in the past been targeted by similar large-scale attacks such as the Wednesday bombing, which also wounded 56 people, according to Health Ministry spokesman Wahid Majroh.

No one has so far claimed responsibility for the bombing but officials blame the Islamic State group, which considers Shiites to be heretics and frequently targets them, attacking their mosques, schools and cultural centers.

In the past two years, there have been at least 13 attacks on the Shiite community in Kabul alone.

Fifteen of the victims' bodies were taken Thursday to a Hazara community compound in Kabul where a mass funeral service was being held. The remaining victims will be taken to their villages to be buried there, said Gulam Hassan, the cousin of one of the victims.

The attacks, which come at the end of more than a week of assaults that have left scores of Afghan troops and civilians dead, also show how militants are still able to stage large-scale attacks — even in the capital of Kabul — and undermine efforts by Afghan forces to provide security and stability on their own.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has condemned the "terrorist" attack on the Shiite center in Kabul that "martyred and wounded the innocent" — students attending class — and ordered an investigation into the attack.

In a Kabul hospital on Thursday, Anifa Ahmadi sat by the bedside of her 17-year-old daughter Sima, who was wounded in the suicide bombing.

Sima was in the front row of the classroom in the single-room building where the explosion occurred.

"I had told her and told her, 'Don't go to school. We are under attack everywhere. No place is safe for us.' But she said 'No, no, no'," the mother said.

But Sima appeared undeterred despite injuries to her legs and arms and said she would go back to school. "I won't let anyone stop me, I will resist all terrorist attacks to have the future I want," she said.

Nahida Rahimi, a doctor at Kabul's Isteqlal Hospital, where some of the wounded are being treated, said a mother told her she had lost a son in Wednesday's bombing after already losing another a year earlier in another suicide bombing, also in Kabul, that targeted Shiites.

"We were both crying," the doctor said.

This article was written by Amir Shah from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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