Anger, mourning after Kabul attack

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KABUL: Members of Afghanistan’s Hazara community began the task of burying more than 80 people killed in Saturday’s suicide attack in Kabul with many blaming political leaders for se­curity failures that led to the massacre. 

Officials said 84 graves were dug into a hillside in the west of Kabul and bodies were brought up throughout the afternoon but, with large public assem­blies banned for security reasons, there was no mass funeral. 

The attack on Saturday, against a demonstration by the mainly Shia Haz­aras, was among the worst in Afghani­stan since the fall of the former Taliban regime in 2001. 

It was claimed by the militant Islam­ic State (IS) group, which had never car­ried out any operation on a comparable scale in Afghanistan, raising fears of a new escalation and the kind of sectarian violence which has so far been relative­ly uncommon in the country. 

Earlier, relatives of some of those killed searched through a bloodied as­sortment of belongings left after the twin blasts tore into a demonstration where thousands were protesting over the route of a planned power transmission line. 

“Those are my cousin’s sandals,” said Sayed Mohammad as he stood in a crowd of people looking for anything fa­miliar among the remnants spread out by authorities on an Afghan flag in the Dasht-i-Barchi area of Kabul. 

“He was the only breadwinner of his family. I’m looking here if I can find anything more from other relatives.” President Ashraf Ghani announced a day of mourning and ordered Dehma­zang Square, the site of the blasts, to be renamed Martyrs Square. As well as the more than 80 dead, some 230 people were injured. 

The attack, described by the top UN official in Afghanistan as a “war crime”, drew condemnation and offers of support from countries including Russia and the United States. But for some, there was fury at both the government and Hazara political leaders. 

The Hazara, a Persian-speaking mi­nority who make up about nine per cent of the population, have long suffered discrimination and violence. They have by and large supported Ghani’s govern­ment, which includes some of their se­nior leaders, but many complain their support “has not been rewarded”. 

“They sold us and we will never for­get this,” said Ghulam Abbas, a Hazara mourner. “They’ve built skyscrapers for themselves and their families from our blood.” Reflecting the often unfocused anger that erupted after the attack, wit­nesses saw some demonstrators turning on police who arrived in the aftermath of the explosion and some even blamed the government for the attacks. 

“If the Taliban and Daesh (IS) do not have helpers in the presidential palace, how can they carry out such attacks?” asked Taher Ahmadi from Waras district in Bamyan province, us­ing the term generally used in Afghani­stan for IS. He said 15 people from his village were killed in the attack. 

Saturday’s protest over a multi-million-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. 

 

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