Afghan Taliban in Nangarhar
Afghan National Army (ANA) prepare for an operation against insurgents in Khogyani district of Nangarhar province Reuters file photo

The Islamic State (Isis) has claimed responsibility for the deadly suicide bombing in Afghan capital Kabul, which left 20 people dead and scores of others injured. The suicide attacker detonated himself on Thursday, 4 January near a crowd comprising both security personnel and civilians.

Isis' latest onslaught marks a sharp escalation of such attacks even as the Afghan Taliban, which fiercely competes for more influence, has also stepped its offensive in the war-torn country.

At least 27 police officers were wounded in the explosion and the injured victims are being treated at a private hospital near the blast site, which is not too far from foreign diplomatic missions including the American embassy.

The blast occurred at about 8.30pm on Thursday when police forces were carrying out a raid against illegal drug alcohol trade.

"Kabul police forces were there to prevent a possible protest when a suicide bomber approached them and detonated his suicide vest," said police spokesman, Bashir Mujahid. Onlookers said the suspect was wearing a police or army uniform when he blew himself up.

Foreign ministry of neighbouring Pakistan was quick to condemn the attack and expressed solidarity with the Afghan administration. "Pakistan strongly condemns the terrorist attack in Kabul last evening, in which many Afghans have lost their lives, while a number of people have been injured," read a statement from the ministry.

"We are grieved at the loss of precious lives in this terrorist attack and express our heartfelt condolences with the families and friends of those who have lost their loved ones and pray for the early recovery of the injured. We express our solidarity with the Government and the brotherly people of Afghanistan in this hour of sorrow and grief," it added.