Dozens Killed In Attack On Protest March Of Minority Hazara Community In Kabul
An attack on a protest march by Afghanistan's minority Hazara community in Kabul has killed dozens of people.
Afghan authorities said that at least 80 people were killed and 231 were injured in the attack, according to The Associated Press and Reuters.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack through its Aamaq news agency. The purported claim was reported by SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant websites. It says two of the group's fighters detonated explosive belts and were targeting a "gathering of Shiites."
Hazaras make up most of Afghanistan's Shiite minority – and the Islamic State group considers Shiite Muslims apostates.
The thousands-strong march through Kabul on Saturday was demanding that "a major regional electric power line be routed through their impoverished home province," as the AP reports. Government officials had rebuffed their calls, saying that rerouting the line "would cost millions and delay the badly needed project by years."
Demonstrators "chanted slogans against President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, shouted 'death to discrimination' and 'all Afghans are equal,'" as The Associated Press reported.
Peshgam TV posted video apparently showing the quiet, peaceful moments prior to the attack. Demonstrators chat in small groups and sit in the shade.
Then, at 1:13, the video cuts to the immediate aftermath. The shaky footage shows terrified protesters shouting and running for their lives as smoke rises in the distance. In the final moments, it shows a number of bodies lying on the ground. A warning: starting from 2:30, there is graphic footage showing severe injuries.
It's unclear whether there were one or two explosions. A protester organizer told The New York Times that there were two blasts.
Witnesses describe a scene of devastation at the bomb side. As the BBC reported, a freelancer working for its Afghan service said "blood and body parts were everywhere, with debris strewn around."
The Times spoke with Muhammed Ali, a protester "whose clothes were covered in blood." He said "he had personally loaded dozens of dead bodies into trucks."
"People were going toward a prayer break when two explosions happened – one near the truck where speeches were given," Ali told the Times.
Ghani issued a statement condemning the attack and saying he was "deeply grieved." He added: "[H]olding protests is the right of every citizen of Afghanistan and the government puts all efforts to provide security for the protestors, but terrorists entered the protests, and carried out explosions that martyred and wounded a number of citizens including members of security and defense forces."