[Breaking news update, 11:35 a.m.]
The death toll in Saturday’s bombing in Kabul has risen to 80, according to the Afghan Interior Ministry. Three suicide attackers carried out the bombing, according to an Afghan security official speaking on condition of anonymity.
[Previous story, published at 11:30 a.m.]
ISIS is claiming responsibility for killing dozens of people during a peaceful demonstration by a minority group in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday.
“I saw tens of people laying down in blood around me and hundreds of people running away from the scene,” said Fatima Faizi, an Afghan freelance journalist.
So far, 64 bodies and more than 260 wounded people were taken to hospitals in Kabul, according to Ismail Kawoosi, a spokesman for the Afghan Health Ministry
The attack, the worst in terms of casualties in several weeks, drew attention to ISIS instead of the Taliban, which had been credited with recent bombings.
Two ISIS fighters detonated their suicide belts among the protesters, according to ISIS’ media wing, Amaq.
The jihadist terrorist group has been stepping up attacks worldwide — and most recenlty in Afghanistan — while losing territory in its self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
The blast in Kabul on Saturday afternoon happened during a demonstration by members of the Hazara, a Shiite minority group, near the Afghan Parliament building and Kabul University.
The group was demanding a large power project that could potentially ensure a power supply through their home Bamyan province, a relatively isolated area west of Kabul.
Accounting for up to one-fifth of Afghanistan’s population, Hazaras, a Persian-speaking people who mainly live in central Afghanistan, have long been branded outsiders for their Shia faith and far Asian features in the country dominated by followers of the Sunni branch of Islam, according to a 2008 National Georgraphic article.
The Hazara in the past have demanded the government protect them from attacks that they have blamed on the Sunni Taliban and ISIS.
On November 11, thousands of protesters marched through Kabul with coffins containing the decapitated bodies of seven Hazaras, four men, two women and one child. The protesters demand justice for the beheadings, chanting slogans seeking death for the Taliban and ISIS.
Saturday’s attack is the latest in a rash of kidnappings and bombings in Kabul, which have heightened security fears in the nation’s capital.
The Taliban have claimed responsibility for other recent attacks
Three weeks ago, two Taliban suicide bombers killed 34 people when they attacked a convoy of buses carrying newly graduated police officers in Kabul.
On June 20 in the Afghan capital, a suicide bomber killed 14 Nepali security contractors who worked for the Canadian embassy.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack in a text message sent to media organizations.
U.S. and other diplomats were barred from traveling by road the short distance from the city’s international airport to their diplomatic missions. Instead, they are ferried by helicopter.
Meanwhile, the 14-year war against the Taliban in the countryside is as bloody as ever. While the Taliban is the dominant insurgent force in the central Asia country, ISIS has been establishing a presence.
ISIS attacks or ISIS-inspired attacks in Afghanistan include:
• April 18, 2015 – A suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself up in front of a bank in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, killing at least 33 people and injuring more than 100 others. “On April 18, local media received text messages allegedly from Shahidullah Shahid, a key figure in the establishment of Wilayat Khorasan, claiming responsibility on behalf of ISIS for the attack,” the Institute for the Study of War reported. Wilayat Khorasan is the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The attack is believed to have been conducted by ISIS or one of its affiliates.
• January 13, 2016 – Three ISIS fighters launched an attack on the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad. The first operative reportedly detonated his explosives while attacking the consulate’s guards and a second bomber detonated his device inside the building. A local official said six people were killed, as well as the three assailants. The attack is believed to have been carried out by ISIS or one of its affiliates.
• June 5, 2016 – The Khorasan Province of ISIS claimed it had carried out the assassination of Afghan member of parliament Sher Wali Wardak. Wardak was killed by an IED while in his car in Kabul. The attack is believed to have been carried out by an ISIS affiliate.
• June 20, 2016 – The Khorasan province of ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a bus carrying Nepalese security guards in Kabul. At least 16 people were killed in the attack. ISIS identified the bomber as Irfanullah Ahmed and published a photo of him. But the Afghan Taliban also claimed responsibility for the attack. The origins of the attack are unknown.