TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Explosions tore through a demonstration by members of Afghanistan’s mainly Shiite Hazara minority in Kabul on Saturday, killing at least 80 people and wounding more than 230 in a suicide attack claimed by ISIL (also known as Daesh).
ISIS is claiming responsibility for a joint suicide bombing Saturday that killed dozens of people during a peaceful demonstration by a minority group in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Graphic television footage from the site of the attack showed many dead bodies lying on the bloodied road, close to where thousands of Hazara had been demonstrating over the route of a planned multi-million dollar power line, Reuters reported.
“Two fighters from Islamic State (Daesh) detonated explosive belts at a gathering of Shiites in the city of Kabul in Afghanistan,” said a brief statement on the group’s Amaq news agency.
If confirmed as the work of ISIL, the attack would represent a major escalation for a group which has hitherto been largely confined to the eastern province of Nangarhar.
The Persian-speaking Hazara, estimated to make up about 9 percent of the population, are Afghanistan’s third-largest minority but they have long suffered discrimination and thousands were killed during the period of Taliban rule.
“We were holding a peaceful demonstration when I heard a bang and then everyone was escaping and yelling,” said Sabira Jan, a protestor who witnessed the attack and saw bloodied bodies strewn across the ground. “There was none to help.”
The Taliban, a fierce enemy of ISIL, denied any involvement and said in a statement posted on its website that the attack was “a plot to ignite civil war”.
The attack succeeded despite tight security which saw much of the city center sealed off with stacks of shipping containers and other obstacles and helicopters patrolling overhead.
A statement from the interior ministry said 80 people had been killed and 231 wounded, making it among the deadliest single incidents since the Taliban were driven from power in the US-led campaign in 2001.
The worst previous attack against the Hazara was in December 2011, when more than 55 people were killed in Kabul during Ashura. That attack was claimed by a Pakistani extremist group called Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.