At least 50 dead in Kabul as suicide bomber blasts through protestors

23 July 2016

An attack by a suicide bomber on a demonstration by Afghanistan's Hazara minority demanding changes to the route of a planned high-tension power transmission line is reported to have killed at least 50 in the Afghan capital of Kabul.


Thousands of people belonging to the Hazara minority had gathered in the capital to demand changes to the route of the multi-million dollar power transmission line.

The attack also left dozens of demonstrators wounded, ministry spokesman Mohammad Ismail Kawoosi said, adding, "The dead and wounded were taken to Istiqlal hospital near the blast scene."

Eyewitnesses said the number of casualties could go up as ambulances had to struggle to reach the scene as authorities had overnight blocked key intersections with stacked shipping containers to prevent protesters from marching on the presidential palace.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack, says the group's Amaq News Agency. The claim, however, is not yet verified.

Earlier reports had pointed to possible role of Taliban, which is in the midst of a summer offensive.

The Taliban insurgents are ramping up after a brief lull during the recent holy fasting month of Ramadan.

The demonstrators were demanding the 500 kV transmission line from Turkmenistan to Kabul be rerouted through two provinces with large Hazara populations.

The government, however, says that would cost millions and delay the badly needed project by years.

The high-tension transmission line passes through their electricity-starved province of Bamiyan, one of the most deprived areas of Afghanistan with a large Hazara population.

The 500-kilovolt TUTAP power line, which would connect the Central Asian nations of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan with electricity-hungry Afghanistan and Pakistan, was originally set to pass through the central province.

But the government re-routed it through the mountainous Salang pass north of Kabul, saying the shorter route would speed up the project and save millions of dollars.

Last month, an Afghan police convoy was attacked by a suicide bomber outside capital Kabul killing 40 policemen. The Taliban had claimed responsibility for the attack.

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