Bombing at voter registration centres in the Afghan capital Kabul and in Baghlan province have killed at least 54 people, health officials said.
Kabul’s acting police chief, Mohammad Daoud Amin, said an assailant detonated his explosives at the doorway of an ID distribution centre in the capital on Sunday, killing 48 people.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group claimed responsibility for the attack via its online news portal, Amaq.
A public health ministry official said ambulances evacuated scores of wounded, adding that the death toll may rise.
The blast occurred in the Dasht-e-Barchi area of western Kabul, where many of the country’s Shia Hazara minority reside.
Among the victims were many women and children, witnesses said.
“After I heard a bang, I rushed to the site of the blast and, when I arrived at the scene, we helped many wounded people by carrying them to hospital,” Bashir Ahmad, a witness, said.
“Many of the victims were women and children who were here to get their identity cards and register for elections,” Ahmad added.
Just north of the city, in Baghlan province, an explosive was placed near another voting centre, killing six people from the same family.
In a separate development on Sunday, a traffic incident reportedly involving a convoy of foreign forces killed a child near the US embassy in Kabul, prompting protests in the area. Witnesses reported heavy gunfire near the embassy.
Attacks have multiplied in recent days in advance of the long-delayed parliamentary and district council elections scheduled for October 20 this year.
Al Jazeera’s Abdullah Shahood, reporting from Kabul, said there was uncertainty about the government’s ability to secure the polls.
“Elections are scheduled to be held in many areas that are under Taliban control.
“There is no chance that free polls could be held there, even as the government says it is trying to implement law and order there to allow people to vote and exercise their constitutional right,” Shahood said.
Voter registration offices opened just last week as part of the long process to get Afghans properly registered for the October polls.
The run-up to the elections has already been plagued by allegations of fraud.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) says it hopes as many as 15 million people will register for the polls, but the election commissioner admits registration turnout so far has been low.
Last week, a voter registration centre was attacked in Ghor province, according to Tolonews, a local news website.
In that attack, unidentified gunmen, which a police spokesperson said belonged to the Taliban, kidnapped two police officers on site as well as three IEC workers.
On Thursday, unidentified gunmen killed two policemen guarding a voter registration centre in Jalalabad City.
Another policeman was killed on Friday after a voter registration centre was attacked in Qala-e-Naw in Baghdis province in central Afghanistan.
ATTENTION – VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY BELOW
|A man cries beside a wounded girl at a hospital after the attack in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]|
|Relatives of victims carry an injured man outside a hospital in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]|
|Relatives of the victims mourn at a hospital in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]|
|Security forces stood guard at the site of the attack in Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi [Omar Sobhani/Reuters]|