80 killed as twin blasts hit Kabul during protests

80 killed as twin blasts hit Kabul during protests

Islamic State claims responsibility, 231 injured

80 killed as twin blasts hit Kabul during protests

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the twin explosions on Saturday that killed at least 80 people and wounded 231 others.

The bombings, apparently aimed at sowing sectarian discord in a country well known for Shia-Sunni harmony, came as thousands of Hazaras gathered to protest over a multimillion-dollar power line.

Charred bodies and dismembered limbs littered the scene of the attack, with ambulances struggling to reach the site as authorities had overnight blocked key intersections with stacked shipping containers to control the movement of the protesters.

“As a result of the attack, 80 people were martyred and 231 wounded,” the Afghanistan’s interior ministry said in a statement.

“Based on initial information, the attack was carried out by three suicide bombers... The third attacker was gunned down by security forces,” it said.

The wounded overwhelmed city hospitals, officials said, with reports emerging of an acute shortage of blood and urgent appeals for donors circulating on social media.

The Taliban, who are in the middle of their annual summer offensive and are more powerful than IS, strongly denied any involvement in the attack.

The IS claimed the bombings in a statement carried by its affiliated Amaq news agency, calling it an attack on the Shiites. “Two fighters of the Islamic State detonated their explosive belts in a gathering of Shiites in... Kabul,” it said

The attack represents a major escalation for the IS group, which has largely been confined to the eastern province of Nangarhar.

The National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency, said the attack was masterminded by Abu Ali, an IS commander in Nangarhar’s volatile Achin district.

The attack came as thousands of demonstrators gathered to demand that a multimillion-dollar power line pass through their electricity-starved province of Bamiyan, one of the most-deprived areas of Afghanistan with a large Hazara population.

“The horrific attack on a group of peaceful protesters in Kabul demonstrates the utter disregard that armed groups have for human life,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

In a statement, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he was “deeply saddened” by the carnage. “Holding protests is the right of every citizen of Afghanistan... but terrorists entered the protests, and carried out explosions that martyred and wounded a number of citizens including members of security forces,” the presidential palace said.

The protest march was largely peaceful before the explosions struck as the demonstrators sought to march on the presidential palace, waving flags and chanting slogans such as “death to discrimination”.