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Afghanistan in mourning after deadly Kabul protest attack

Grieving family members prepared funerals, searched for missing relatives and picked through an assortment of bloody belongings on Sunday, one day after two explosions tore through crowds of Shiite Hazara protesters in Kabul.

The attack killed at least 80 people and wounded around 230, making it the deadliest single attack in the capital since the Taliban were toppled from power in 2001, said the interior ministry. The militant “Islamic State” (IS) group claimed the attack.

Officials said there were two suicide bombers wearing explosive-laden clothing. One managed to detonate, while the other was shot by police before triggering the bomb.

“I promise you that I will avenge the blood of our loved ones on the perpetrators of this crime, wherever they are,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said, declaring Sunday a national day of mourning.

At the request of the Hazara, Ghani also renamed the attack site as “Martyr’s Square” in honor of the victims. The area remained littered with metal, charred body parts, personal items and protest banners with slogans such as: “Don’t eliminate us.”

Hazara occupy bomb site

Members of Afghanistan’s Hazara minority continued to occupy Demazang Square on Sunday, which was bombed as the demonstrator’s peaceful protest was winding down.

They recited verses from the Koran and held candlelight vigils, despite a 10-day government ban on public gatherings for security reasons. Leaders of the protest movement have said they will not leave until three conditions had been met by the government.

He said the Enlighten Movement, which organized the protests, wants to have its own representatives and members of international human rights organizations take part in the commission Ghani set up to investigate the attack.

The protesters also want a multi-million-dollar power line to be rerouted to their impoverished and electricity-starved province of Bamiyan. The third condition, renaming Demazang for the victims, has already been fulfilled.

On Saturday, thousands of the Shiite minority marched on the capital in a peaceful protest for the power line project. IS, a predominantly Sunni militant group, is opposed to Shiites and, like the Taliban, does not recognize them as Muslims.

The killings sparked a wave of condemnation, with the United Nations calling the direct assault on civilians a “war crime.” The attack also raised concerns about IS possibly trying to regain a foothold in Afghanistan.

rs/jlw (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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