Chaos as distressed relatives search hospitals
More than 40 people were killed and dozens wounded in a suicide blast targeting Shiites in Kabul yesterday, officials said, with chaotic scenes at the city’s hospitals as anguished families sought loved ones.
The Sunni Islamic State group (IS) claimed responsibility for the gruesome assault on the pro-Iranian Tabayan cultural centre, the third deadly attack it has claimed in the Afghan capital this month.
Up to 100 people had gathered at the centre to mark the 38th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
It is located in western Kabul, in the same building as affiliated Afghan Voice Agency (AVA), an antiIS media outlet.
“The latest figures we have from this tragic incident show 41 people have been killed and a further 84 people injured,” health ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh said.
Kabul has become one of the deadliest places in war-torn Afghanistan for civilians in recent months, as the Taliban steps up its attacks and IS seeks to expand its presence in the country.
Yesterday’s attack saw chaotic scenes at the Istiqlal hospital where ambulances and police pickups brought victims, including women and children. Many had severe burns to their faces and bodies, as well as shrapnel wounds.
Visibly distressed relatives searching for their loved ones inside the medical facility slapped their heads in fury as they cried and cursed the government for seemingly being unable to end the regular carnage on their streets.
Some were so distraught they crawled on the ground pulling their hair.
More than a dozen badly burnt bodies lay on the floor in a room inside the hospital and wooden coffins were delivered so families could take away the remains of loved ones.
An interior ministry spokesman said the attack – the deadliest since a Shiite mosque bombing in October that killed more than 50 worshippers – had been followed by two smaller bomb blasts as people were leaving the scene.
Yesterday’s assault comes days after a suicide bomber killed six civilians in a Christmas Day attack near an Afghan intelligence agency compound in the city, which was also claimed by IS.
On December 18, militants from the group stormed an intelligence training compound in Kabul, triggering an intense gunfight with police, two of whom were wounded.
The Middle Eastern jihadist outfit has gained ground in Afghanistan since it first appeared in the region in 2015, and has scaled up its attacks in Kabul, including on security installations and the country’s Shiite minority.
The attack drew international condemnation, with Nato’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan describing it as heinous.
Amnesty International said it was further evidence that Kabul was not safe.
“The European governments who insist on this dangerous fiction by forcibly returning Afghans are putting their lives in danger,” Amnesty International’s South Asia director Biraj Patnaik said.
Germany, which has expelled dozens of Afghans in recent months, said it cried with the victims.
Interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish vowed to avenge the blood of the victims, many of whom were students.
Authorities would also investigate possible negligence by police personnel, Danish said.
Security in Kabul has been ramped up since May 31 when a massive truck bomb ripped through the diplomatic quarter, killing about 150 people and wounding 400 others – mostly civilians. No group has yet claimed that attack. – AFP