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At Least 26 Dead In Kabul Suicide Attack

Afghan policemen arrive at the site of a blast in Kabul on March 21.

A suicide attack outside a mosque in Kabul has killed at least 26 people and wounded 18, the Afghan Interior Ministry says.

Nusrat Rahimi, a deputy spokesman for the ministry, told RFE/RL that most of the victims of the March 21 attack were civilians.

The attack occurred as people in the Afghan capital celebrated Norouz, the Persian New Year holiday.

The bomber was spotted by police as he attempted to enter a large gathering for the Norouz celebration in Kabul's Kart-e Sakhi mosque, Mohammad Salem Almas, head of criminal investigations in the Kabul police, told RFE/RL.

The attacker detonated the explosives that he was carrying before entering the mosque, Almas said.

The blast, the latest in a series to have hit Shi'ite targets in Kabul, came as people were walking away from the mosque, near the city's main university.

The Kart-e Sakhi mosque was a target of previous militant attacks.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but Taliban and Islamic State (IS) militants have increasingly targeted Kabul in recent months. IS militants view members of the Shi'ite minority as apostates.

Norouz is a national holiday, widely celebrated in Afghanistan, but has also faced opposition from some fundamentalist Muslims, who say it is un-Islamic.

Afghan officials fear that the death toll from the attack may rise.

The latest explosion to hit Kabul highlighted the threat to the city despite government promises to tighten security following a series of brazen militant attacks in Kabul.

Almost 100 people were killed in January in Kabul in a Taliban suicide attack in a secure zone home to government offices and foreign embassies.

Also in January, Taliban militants killed 22 people in a luxury Kabul hotel.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and dpa