At least 40 people have been killed and scores of others left injured when a suicide bombing took place outside a Shia cultural and religious organisation in the Afghan capital, Kabul. Afghan Taliban, the active Islamist group known for such bombings, has denied responsibility in carrying out the attack.

According to reports, women, children and journalists were among those killed as a media outlet is also located in close vicinity. Officials say two other explosions followed the suicide blast at about 10.30am local time (6am UK time) on Thursday (28 December). Five injured victims are thought to be in critical condition.

Involvement of more than one attacker is suspected though it is still unclear. Grenades were thrown shortly after the suicide bombing near the Shia mosque.

"There were two explosions. We still do not know the target of the attack, but Afghan Voice Agency is in the area of the attack," interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency. Several students are thought to have been inside the office of the media organisation when the explosion occurred.

Images shared on social media showed bodies lying around and buildings heavily damaged from the explosion.

Taliban quickly denied it did not carry out the attack, saying the Islamist group never targets civilians. The group's spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid issued a statement to media saying his organisation acts carefully when it comes to attacks on civilian targets. No one else has claimed responsibility as yet.

The suicide bombing comes days after a similar attack in the same area killed six civilians. The so-called Islamic State has been trying to increase its presence in the war-torn nation in recent months and stepped up their attacks especially against Shia community. Kabul has come under a series of terror attacks in 2017.

Afghan Kabul bombing
Afghan women mourn inside a hospital compound after a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan Mohammad Ismail/Reuters