Afghanistan yesterday marked a national day of mourning, a day after at least 80 people were killed by a suicide bomber attack on a demonstration. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.
Funerals were due to begin in western Kabul as families collected their dead from hospitals and morgues across the capital and graves were dug in preparation.
The attack was the deadliest to hit Kabul in 15 years of civil war. It struck a demonstration by Afghanistan’s Hazara ethnic community, who were marching for a major regional power line to be routed through their home province. The Hazaras are Shiite Muslims, while most Afghans are Sunnis.
Footage on Afghan television and photographs posted on social media showed a scene of horror and carnage, with numerous bodies and body parts spread across the square. Bloodied survivors were seen being dragged for help, others walked around dazed or screaming.
Two suicide bombers had attempted to target the demonstrators, but one of them was shot by police before he could detonate his explosives, said Haroon Chakhansuri, a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Chakhansuri said that three city district police chiefs were injured and another three security personnel were killed.
Witnesses said that immediately after the blast, security forces shot in the air to disperse the crowd. Secondary attacks have been known to target people who come to the aid of those wounded in a first explosion.
Roadblocks that had been set up overnight to prevent the marchers accessing the city center or the presidential palace hampered efforts to transfer some of the wounded to hospitals, witnesses said.
Angry demonstrators sealed some of the area around the square and prevented police and other security forces from entering. Some threw stones at security forces.
Outside hospitals, huge lines formed as members of the public offered to donate blood.
The Afghan Ministry of the Interior said that 81 people had been killed and 231 wounded in the bombing.
Ministry deputy spokesman Najib Danish said the blast was the biggest in Afghanistan since 2001, when the Taliban launched an insurgency after they were toppled by the 2001 US invasion.
Chakhansuri said the organizers of the march had been warned of the possibility of an attack.
“We had intelligence over recent days and it was shared with the demonstration organizers,” he said.
“We shared our concerns because we knew that terrorists wanted to bring sectarianism to our community,” Chakhansuri added.
Senior Hazara leaders were absent, despite having attended a similar protest in May.
The organizers could not be immediately contacted for comment on Chakhansuri’s statement.
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