KABUL, Afghanistan– The Islamic State is claiming responsibility for killing dozens of people and wounding more than 100 during a peaceful demonstration in Kabul by a minority group 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.
Emergency, an Italian medical organization that assists in war-torn countries, tweeted that its hospital had received four victims and that there were “many wounded and killed.”
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.
So far, 61 bodies and more than 207 wounded people were taken to hospitals in Kabul, according to Ismail Kawoosi, a spokesman for the Afghan Health Ministry
The blast in Kabul on Saturday afternoon happened during a demonstration by 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.
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 denied responsibility for Saturday’s bombing but have claimed credit for other recent attacks. They also have been accused of targeting the Hazara, a Persian-speaking people who mainly live in central Afghanistan and follow the Shia branch of Islam.
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.
The Hazara in the past have demanded the government protect them from attacks that they have tied to the Sunni Taliban and ISIS.
Accounting for up to one-fifth of Afghanistan’s population, Hazaras have long been branded outsiders for their Shiite faith and far Asian features and targeted by the Taliban, according to a 2008 National Geographic article.
On November 11, thousands of protesters marched through Kabul with coffins containing the decapitated bodies of seven Shiite Hazaras, four men, two women and one child. The protesters demand justice for the beheadings, chanting slogans seeking death for the Taliban and ISIS.