While it has been slowed somewhat by coalition forces led by the US, ISIS continues to threaten the free world and will likely succeed in its mission to terrorize the West unless it is stopped quickly and with full force.
The Islamic State (ISIS) group has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on a peaceful protest in the Afghan capital on Saturday that killed at least 80 people and wounded more than 200, marking the first time the terrorists have struck Kabul and raising fears of their growing strength and capability in Afghanistan.
The attack was the deadliest to hit Kabul in 15 years of civil war. It struck a demonstration by Afghanistan’s Hazara ethnic community, who were marching for a major regional power line to be routed through their home province. The Hazaras are Shiite Muslims, most Afghans are Sunnis.
ISIS has sworn to eliminate the entire Shiite Muslims population, which it deems as a heretical sect. Shia Muslims constitute some 10 percent of the world’s Muslim population.
Footage on Afghan television and photographs posted on social media showed a scene of horror and carnage, with numerous bodies and body parts spread across the square. Bloodied survivors were seen being dragged clear for help, others walked around dazed or screaming.
Two suicide bombers had attempted to target the demonstrators, but one of them was shot by police before he could detonate his explosives, according to Haroon Chakhansuri, a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. He said that three city district police chiefs were injured and another three security personnel were killed.
Witnesses said that immediately after the blast, security forces shot in the air to disperse the crowd. Secondary attacks have been known to target people who come to the aid of those wounded in a first explosion.
Road blocks that had been set up overnight to prevent the marchers accessing the city center or the presidential palace hampered efforts to transfer some of the wounded to the hospital, witnesses said.
Angry demonstrators sealed some of the area around the square, and prevented police and other security forces from entering. Some threw stones at security forces.
Outside hospitals, huge queues formed as the public offered to donate blood.
The Afghan Interior Ministry said that 81 people had been killed and 231 wounded in the bombing. The ministry’s deputy spokesman, Najib Danish, said the blast was the biggest in Afghanistan since 2001, when the Taliban launched their brutal insurgency after they were toppled by the 2001 US invasion.
According to the presidential spokesman, Chakhansuri, the organizers of the march had been warned of the possibility of an attack. “We had intelligence over recent days and it was shared with the demonstration organizers, we shared our concerns because we knew that terrorists wanted to bring sectarianism to our community,” he said.
ISIS’ Growing Strength in Afghanistan
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement issued by its news agency, Aamaq.
ISIS has had a presence on Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan, mainly in Nangarhar province, for the past year, but this is the first time the terrorist group has struck the Afghan capital. The bombing raises concerns over ISIS’s growing capabilities in Afghanistan.
Officials believe the fighters are made up of disaffected Taliban insurgents and members of Pakistani Islamic terror groups, and that they receive some funding and arms from ISIS in Syria and Iraq. In Nangarhar they have fought Taliban fighters as well as Afghan security forces, sometimes seizing control of whole districts in the east of the province.
A day of national mourning was declared for Sunday.
The Interior Ministry issued a ban on “any kind of public gathering and demonstration” for the next 10 days. The move could be aimed at controlling any outbreaks of sectarian animosity.
The commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, US Army Gen. John Nicholson, denounced the attack. He said in a statement that “we strongly condemn the actions of Afghanistan’s enemies of peace and remain firmly committed to supporting our Afghan partners and the National Unity Government.” The US embassy in Kabul also issued a condemnation.
In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the “heinous attack was made all the more despicable by the fact that it targeted a peaceful demonstration.” He said the US and the international community stand firmly with the Afghan people and their government “to confront the forces that threaten Afghanistan’s security, stability and prosperity.”