Dozens dead in Afghanistan attack, Islamic State claims responsibility

Cheryl Sanders
August 7, 2016

A man calling for "no discrimination" marches in the protest.

At least 61 people were killed and more than 200 wounded Saturday when attackers detonated explosives amid a huge crowd of peaceful protesters in the Afghan capital, majority from the country's Shiite ethnic Hazara minority, health and police officials said. When the explosion happened, everything was demolished, everybody was dead in the street.

So-called Islamic State (IS), the Sunni Muslim militant group, has said it was behind Saturday's attack on members of the Shia Muslim Hazara minority.

Saturday's protest over the route of a multimillion dollar power line, which demonstrators wanted to re-route through two provinces with large Hazara populations, had become a touchstone for a wider sense of injustice.

People belonging to Afghanistan's Shia Hazara minority community stage a protest in Kabul on Saturday
Reuters People belonging to Afghanistan's Shia Hazara minority community stage a protest in Kabul on Saturday

CNN says the attack happened as members of a Shiite Muslim minority group peacefully protested, demanding better access to electricity.

"The attack was carried out by three suicide bombers", the Afghan Interior Ministry told the New York Times in a statement.

The 500-kilovolt TUTAP power line, which would connect the Central Asian nations of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan with electricity-hungry Afghanistan and Pakistan, was originally set to pass through the central Province.

Waheed Majroeh, the head of worldwide relations for the Ministry of Public Health, confirmed the death toll and said it was likely to rise "as the condition of numerous injured is very serious".

According to MoI, at least 80 people lost their lives and 231 others sustained injuries in the attack.

Police moved trucks and containers into the city overnight Friday to block roads and prevent marchers reaching the city center or the presidential palace.

President Ashraf Ghani declared a day of mourning and ordered Dehmazang Square, where the attack took place, to be renamed Martyrs Square.

At least 80 people were killed and more than 230 wounded in one of the worst bombings since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001. One succeeded in blowing himself up, another was shot by police, and one suspect's vest malfunctioned and did not go off.

Correspondents say the statement suggests an intention to foment sectarian strife.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also condemned the terrorist attack. "And today they really killed us", said Daoud Shadab, witness. "We strongly condemn the actions of Afghanistan's enemies of peace and remain firmly committed to supporting our Afghan partners and the National Unity Government". It was their second demonstration; the first was in May and had a much better turnout and was attended by senior Hazara politicians who were absent from Saturday's march.

The last protest in May attracted thousands of people and shut down the central business district.

Waving Afghan flags and chanting slogans like "Justice!" and "Death to discrimination!", demonstrators gathered near Kabul University, several kilometres from the main government area. They claimed that its route bypasses provinces where many of them live. Leaders of the marches have said that the rerouting was evidence of bias against the Hazara community. Most Afghans are Sunni, and the IS group regards Shiites as apostates.

Afghanistan is in a state of political and social turmoil, with the long-standing Taliban insurgency continuing in the country, while other extremist groups have also expanded their activities. The Taliban have been waging a vicious insurgency against the Kabul government for 15 years, since their regime was overthrown by the USA invasion in 2001.

Other reports by iNewsToday