Gunmen attack intelligence service centre in Afghan capital Kabul

Afghans mourn a victim of the deadly suicide bombing

The Taliban has not taken any responsibility of the blast as of yet.

The blast killed at least 48 and wounded at least 67, the wire service writes, and came after weeks of "relative calm" in Afghanistan's capital.

With parliamentary elections due on October 20, authorities had been bracing for more attacks in Kabul and other cities, but even so, the scale of the violence has come as a shock to a government facing bitter criticism over its handling of the war.

Both male and female students were studying at the center, preparing for entrance exams.

Hossain recounted to The Associated Press how when he entered Fareba's classroom, he saw parts of human bodies all over student desks and benches.

"The savage terrorists are targeting cultural and educational institutions, showing that they are against the teachings of Islam and the Prophet encouraging all Muslims, men and women, to seek knowledge and learning", Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement.

The Hazara have often been targeted by the hardline Sunni Islamic State militant group.

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A standoff is underway between the Afghan forces and the assailant militants in the vicinity of the 5th police district of the city.

The head of the United Nations children's agency denounced the attack, saying it's "deplorable" that children continue to be hardest hit in the growing violence across Afghanistan.

He said the security forces and civilians have not suffered casualties during the attack.

"The defence ministry confirmed the incident early on Wednesday, but gave no details".

The firefight erupted near a training center overseen by the National Security Directorate - Afghanistan's intelligence agency - with the gunmen holed up in a construction site near residential buildings, an official at the scene said.

Also on Wednesday, the Taliban attacked a police checkpoint in southern Zabul province, killing several police officers, a police chief told the AP.

Also Wednesday, six children were killed when they tinkered with an unexploded rocket shell, causing it to blow up, said Sarhadi Zwak, spokesman for the governor of the eastern Laghman province. The latest incident comes at a time of high tension following a series of attacks including a full-scale assault on the city of Ghazni last week. "Reliable information indicates that the Ghazni Public Hospital is overwhelmed by a continuous influx of injured government forces, Taliban fighters and civilians".

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