Sunday, 4 June 2017
At least 18 Afghans killed as multiple blasts target funeral for protesters in Kabul
At least 18 Afghans were killed when three back-to-back explosions ripped through a funeral Saturday for one of the demonstrators killed during anti-government protests Friday, witnesses and media reported. The people killed on a hill in the northern part of Kabul had not been identified. The public health ministry confirmed the casualties. Ministry spokesman Wahid Majroh said 87 people were wounded. Embattled President Ashraf Ghani condemned the assault, calling it an "outrageous attack on mourners burying the martyred."
"The country is under attack," Ghani said. "We must be strong and united."
Afghan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah and Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani were among those attending the funeral. They were reportedly safe.
The funeral was for the son of deputy head of Senate, Salim Ezadyar. A helicopter was seen landing on the hill while ambulance sirens were heard heading to the site of the explosions. Earlier, authorities had urged locals to end anti-government protests because of reports that militants would target any gathering, similar to one that killed scores of people last year. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Saturday's blasts, which were suicide attacks. The resurgent Taliban said it was not involved in the assault. The attack drew condemnation from political parties and ordinary Afghans.
Friday's protest was launched following a series of deadly attacks by insurgents, including one in Kabul that killed more than 100 people and wounded hundreds more Wednesday. In addition to civilians, Friday's protesters included several political figures and a key factional leader, Ahmad Zai Masood, whom President Ashraf Ghani fired from a top government job recently. They demanded removal of Ghani's shaky government and pushed for formation of an interim administration, at least partly for its failure to stop the attacks. The protesters chanted anti-American and anti-Pakistani slogans, demanded execution of militant inmates and accused the government of being too lenient in the fight against the insurgents. The resurgent Taliban, with whom the government has been trying broker a peace deal, has denied involvement in Wednesday's attack. The Afghan government has blamed it on the Haqqani network, which is seen as the operational wing of the Taliban.
Friday's protest became violent after some of demonstrators continued moving forward after entreaties by police to stop several hundred meters away from the presidential palace, witnesses said. Security forces opened fire and used water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd. Five protesters died and almost 10 were wounded.