KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bomber struck near an anti-Taliban rally in Kabul on Monday, killing at least four people, officials said, as a lawmaker reported that insurgents killed at least 20 Afghan policemen over the past 24 hours in eastern Ghazni province.
According to Basir Mujahid, spokesman for the Kabul police chief, the bomber was on foot and detonated his vest full of explosive after he was spotted by police.
Hours later, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place about 500 meters (yards) from where hundreds of minority Shiites had gathered to denounce the latest Taliban attacks in Ghazni districts of Jaghuri and Malistan.
Wahid Mujroh, spokesman for the Health Ministry, said so far at least four were confirmed dead while 22 people were wounded. The casualties were taken to hospitals, he added.
In a statement posted on its media arm, the Aamaq news agency, IS said it targeted a gathering of Shiites. Both the Taliban, who now control nearly half of Afghanistan and stage near-daily attacks on Afghan forces, and the Islamic State group’s affiliate in the region have been behind many recent Kabul attacks and bombings.
Meanwhile, Afghan lawmaker Ali Akbar Qasemi said the fighting in Ghazni since Sunday has focused on the district of Jaghuri where 20 policemen have been killed.
The Afghan army chief, Gen. Mohammad Sharif Yaftali, told reporters that government forces have sustained casualties but declined to elaborate on specifics or say how many were killed.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid took responsibility for the Jaghuri attacks and claimed in a text message to the media that the Taliban have also captured Ghazni’s district of Malistan.
There was no immediate response from authorities on Malistan.
Ghazni is the only one out of 34 Afghan provinces where the country’s October parliamentary elections could not take place for security reasons. Voting there has been postponed for a year.
In August, the Taliban overran parts of the provincial capital, also called Ghazni. At the time, hundreds of people fled the city amid intense fighting between Afghan forces and insurgents that killed about 120 members of the security forces and civilians. According to Afghan authorities, nearly 200 insurgents, many of them foreign fighters, were also killed.
Associated Press writer Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this story.