Blast kills 22 in Afghan capital

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Blast kills 22 in Afghan capital

A bomb exploded in a busy shopping street in Kabul, Afghanistan, killing 22 people, hospital officials and witnesses said on Saturday.

The blast occurred in a western district of the city, where members of the minority Shia Muslim community meet regularly.

Video footage posted online showed ambulances rushing to the scene, which is also near bus stations.

The Taliban interior ministry said an investigation team was at the blast site to help the wounded and assess casualties.

No militant group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which came ahead of Ashura, a commemoration of the martyrdom of Hussein, a grandson of Prophet Muhammad, which is mainly marked by Shia Muslims.

At least eight people were killed and 18 wounded in a blast in Kabul carried out by Islamic State, a Sunni Muslim militant group.

IS does not control any territory in Afghanistan, but it has deadly sleeper cells that have been targeting religious minorities in the country as well as Taliban patrols.

Sunni Muslim Taliban authorities, who took over Afghanistan in August a year ago after a two-decade insurgency, have said they will provide more protection for Shia mosques and other facilities.

Sayed Kazum Hojat, a Shia religious scholar in Kabul, said the Taliban government had ramped up security ahead of Ashura but should improve vigilance for any threats.

There is no up-to-date census data, but estimates put the size of Afghanistan's Shia community at between 10% and 20% of the 39 million population, including Persian-speaking Tajiks and Pashtuns as well as Hazaras.