KABUL, Afghanistan – At least 80 people were killed and 231 injured when a huge blast rocked a mass demonstration in the Afghan capital, Kabul, the Interior Ministry has announced. The attack was claimed by terrorist group Islamic State.
The numbers were confirmed to Afghan TOLOnews network and Pajhwok agency.
Officials have confirmed that at least three suicide bombers were present at the rally. The first detonated an explosives vest, the second was killed by police, while the third had a defective explosives vest. The fate of the third attacker is unknown.
Graphic photos have emerged on social media showing bodies at the presumed site of explosion.
“The dead and wounded were taken to Istiqlal hospital near the blast scene,” Kawoosi said.
The attack took place in Dehmazang Circle during a mass demonstration.
Security officials have arrived at the scene of the blast and the injured have been taken to nearby hospitals.
Shortly after the attack, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied the group was behind the bombing, saying it “did not have any involvement or hand in this tragic attack.”
Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attack, adding that its fighters detonated explosive belts “at a gathering of Shiites,” according to IS-affiliated Amaq news agency.
However, there have been conflicting reports about the number of blasts that struck the demo. According to TOLOnews, two explosions rocked the protest. Some reports on social media suggested there might have been up to three explosions.
The demonstration, organized by the Enlightenment Movement, gathered to protest over the Afghan government’s planned 500kV power line project.
Authorities want to run the power line to Kabul through the Salang area in northeastern Afghanistan. But protestors wanted the line diverted through the city of Bamiyan in central Afghanistan.
Amnesty International said that the attack “on a group of peaceful protestors in Kabul demonstrates the utter disregard that armed groups have for human life.”
“Such attacks are a reminder that the conflict in Afghanistan is not winding down, as some believe, but escalating, with consequences for the human rights situation in the country that should alarm us all.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he was “deeply saddened” by the massacre.
“Peaceful protest is the right of every citizen, but opportunist terrorists infiltrated the crowds and carried out the attack, killing and injuring a number of citizens including some security forces,” he added.