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A Shiite cultural center in Kabul was bombed on December 28 - and the Islamic State (ISIS) is admitting guilt, The New York Times reports. The death toll was expected to rise. "The enemies of Afghanistan will not succeed in their attempts to destroy the country and divide the Afghan people, who are resilient and committed to establishing peace and stability", the statement said.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said attack on cultural centers shows "depth of terrorists' hatred towards freedom of speech, awareness and unity among the Afghans".

"The terrorists have attacked our mosques, our holy places, and now our cultural center".

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said an unknown number of suicide attackers set off an explosion outside the center before storming the building when they set of more explosives in the basement.

The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan called the attack "another truly despicable crime in a year already marked by unspeakable atrocities".

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"Government officials should stop sacrificing the people for their personal interests, those who are killed are not the sons of ministers and high profile people and not the son of the president; all of the victims are the poor, all those who were present here were coming here for training", said one angry citizen.

The Taliban insurgency distanced itself from the attack, saying its fighters do not target civilian facilities, especially those housing education and cultural centers.

The attack came just weeks after Ghani said the Islamic State, which emerged in Afghanistan in late 2014, was "on the run" following a recent series of joint offensives with USA -led troops.

Backed by the heaviest United States air strikes since the height of the global combat mission in Afghanistan, Afghan forces have forced the Taliban back in many areas and prevented any major urban centre from falling into the hands of insurgents.

Constable reported from Islamabad.