An Afghan security personnel checks a motorbike rider near the site of a suicide bomb attack in Kandahar on March 21, 2024.
An Afghan security personnel checks a motorbike rider near the site of a suicide bomb attack in Kandahar on March 21, 2024. Image Credit: AFP

Kandahar: A suicide bombing on Thursday in the Afghan city of Kandahar killed three people, said Taliban authorities who blamed the Islamic State group, while a hospital source put the death toll at 20.

The explosion at around 8:00am (0330 GMT) targeted a group of people waiting outside the New Kabul Bank branch in central Kandahar city, in the southern province of the same name that is the birthplace of the Taliban movement.

The provincial information department said three people had been killed and 12 were wounded, but a source at a major hospital in the southern city said the toll was much higher.

"Mirwais Hospital has received 20 people killed since this morning from the explosion," the source said on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal for speaking to the media.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but the interior ministry said a "preliminary report shows that this crime has been carried out by Daesh", using another name for the jihadist Islamic State (IS) group.

"The investigations are ongoing," interior ministry spokesman Abdul Mateen Qani told AFP. "As soon as possible the criminals will be identified... and punished for their actions."

Inamullah Samangani, director of information and culture of Kandahar province, said the bank was busy with people collecting their salaries when the explosion went off.

"Commonly our compatriots gather there to collect their salaries," he said, adding that the "victims were civilians".

One of the victims, Khalil Ahmad, a father of eight in his forties, had gone to the bank to get his salary, his nephew said at his funeral later Thursday.

"He was just an ordinary, simple guy, he used to work as a painter," Mohammad Shafiq Saraaj said, as Ahmad's relatives gathered around his body wrapped in a white cloth for burial.

"Such incidents used to happen under the previous government... and now it is happening as well," Saraaj said.

"We beg for security to be properly maintained in the country and especially in crowded places, and that our nation be saved from this kind of tragedy."

'Under control'

In the aftermath of the explosion, Taliban authorities surrounded the area outside the bank and did not let journalists close to the site.

However, an AFP correspondent saw what appeared to be unconscious people or dead bodies being loaded into ambulances in the wake of the blast.

Firefighters and security personnel cleared the area, where blood, scraps of clothes and shoes had littered the ground.

Samangani said Thursday morning that "the situation is under control" at one of the city's hospitals where the wounded were transported, denying there was an urgent need for blood donations as had circulated on social media.

"There is no such issue, and the wounded people are not in serious condition, they have superficial injuries," he said in a message to journalists.