29 people killed in Afghanistan capital bombing

29 people killed in Afghanistan capital bombing

A powerful bomb ripped through a mass protest rally Saturday in the Afghan capital, Kabul, and the country’s health ministry spokesman said at least 29 people were killed.

Spokesman Mohammad Ismail Kawasi told VOA that 160 others were wounded in the blast.

The attack occurred as thousands of ethnic Hazaras marched through the streets to demand a planned power line be rerouted through their poverty-stricken central province of Bamiyan.

Witnesses and journalists reported seeing bodies of victims at the scene of the blast, which appeared to have been carried out by a suicide bomber. Afghan officials say the death toll is likely to rise.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Authorities had blocked main roads ahead of the rally to prevent protesters from reaching the city’s center or the presidential palace. The measures severely restricted movement, forcing shops and businesses to close. It also hampered the ability of rescue workers to reach victims of the attack.

President Ashraf Ghani condemned the violence as the work of “terrorists and opportunists”, saying the government put in place measures to provide security for the protesters.

“But terrorists entered the protests, and carried out explosions that martyred and wounded a number of citizens including members of security and defense forces,” he said.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility. A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, says the Islamist insurgency has nothing to do with the attack.

The Amnesty International said “the horrific” attack on a peaceful protest demonstrated “the utter disregard that armed groups have for human life.”

In May, the Hazara community organized a similar mass demonstration against the current route of the multi-million-dollar regional electricity line involving Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The original plan was to route the so-called TUTAP line through Bamiyan, a mostly Hazara region.

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