Monday 21 May 2018

Afghanistan holds day of mourning for blast victims

Afghans gather property left behind by victims of an explosion that struck a protest march
Afghans gather property left behind by victims of an explosion that struck a protest march

Afghanistan has marked a national day of mourning after at least 80 people were killed by a suicide bomber attack on a peaceful demonstration.

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.

Authorities said another 231 people were wounded, some seriously, in Saturday's attack on a march by members of the ethnic Hazara community, who are predominantly Shiite Muslim.

The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group.

Prior to the attack, thousands of Hazaras had marched through Kabul to demand the re-routing of a power line through their impoverished province of Bamiyan, in the central highlands.

The office of President Ashraf Ghani said that march organisers had been warned to call off the demonstration after intelligence was received that an attack was likely.

But Daud Naji, a member of the Enlighten Movement which organised the marches, said on Sunday that they had been told only that there was a "heightened risk" of attack and had subsequently cancelled nine of 10 planned routes.

Hazaras account for about 15% of Afghanistan's population, estimated at around 30 million, and often complain of discrimination.

The attack has raised concerns about sectarianism, and the Interior Ministry announced a ban on public gatherings and demonstrations in a potential bid to avoid any inter-communal strife.

However Hazara demonstrators have continued to occupy Demazang Square, where the attack took place as the march was winding down and some were preparing to set up a camp, Mr Naji said, until three conditions had been met.

He said the Enlighten Movement wished to have its own representatives, as well as others from international human rights organisations, involved in a commission Mr Ghani has established to investigate the incident.

The movement also wanted the pipeline re-routed through Bamiyan, as originally demanded.

And they wanted the name of Demazang Square changed to Shahada or Martyrs' Square, "to honour the memories of those who were killed, along with a picture of everyone who died there".

Mr Ghani has issued a decree to change the name of the square as the Hazaras have asked

The death toll was still not yet finalised on Sunday, according to the Interior Ministry.

The ministry said on Saturday that 80 people were killed; Mr Naji said the Enlighten Movement puts the toll so far at 84.

Officials said there were two suicide bombers wearing explosive-packed clothing. One detonated himself, the other was shot by police before he was able to blow himself up, they said.


Press Association

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