(BBC) – At least 18 people have been killed and dozens wounded in a suicide bomb attack outside an education centre in the Afghan capital, Kabul, officials say.
The explosion at the private facility, which offers courses for students in higher education, occurred late in the afternoon, the interior ministry said.
The building in the predominantly Shia Muslim Dasht-e-Barchi area usually hosts hundreds of students.
Many have been taken to hospital. There are fears the death toll may rise.
The Islamic State group said it was behind the attack in messages posted on its social media channels, but did not provide any evidence.
Earlier, the Taliban denied involvement in the attack.
“A suicide bomber wanted to enter the education centre,” interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said in a statement, AFP news agency reports.
The spokesman added that the attacker was identified by security guards “after which he detonated his explosives in an alley”.
One local resident, Ali Reza, told AFP that those killed and injured were students waiting to enter the facility. “I was standing about 100m from the centre when a big blast knocked me down,” he said.
Afghanistan has seen a rise in violence in recent weeks – with most of the attacks carried out by the Taliban. The violence threatens to imperil peace talks between government forces and the Taliban in the Qatari capital, Doha.
The Shia community in Afghanistan has previously been targeted by Sunni Muslim extremists such as the Islamic State group, which views the Shia practice of Islam as heretical.