US, WASHINGTON (NEWS OBSERVATORY) — At least 29 people have been killed in an attack on a political rally in west Kabul, according to the Afghan Interior Ministry, the first such attack in the capital since the agreement between the Taliban and the United States.
Some “29 people, including women, were killed and 61 injured,” said ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi on WhatsApp messaging. Wahidullah Mayar, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, interviewed by AFP, said “32 dead, including five women, and 58 injured”.
The Taliban have denied responsibility for the attack, which underscores the level of insecurity that Afghanistan faces, while the United States pledged on February 29 in Qatar to force all foreign forces to withdraw from the country under 14 months, in exchange for guarantees from the Taliban.
On a video obtained by AFP, Karim Khalili, the head of the Afghan High Council for Peace, a public body, sees his speech interrupted by a heavy fire, causing howls in the crowd.
Photos on social networks show alignments of bodies, some of which have their faces covered with a piece of cloth, a sign that they are corpses.
Many members of the Afghan political elite were present, including the Afghan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, who said he had won the presidential election in September even if the official results gave him losers.
Among the guests, former President Hamid Karzai and ex-Prime Minister Salahuddin Rabbani had left the event earlier, said Mohammad Mohaqiq, the best known of the Hazara politicians and a relative of Abdullah Abdullah, on the Tolonews channel.
“All high-level officials have been safely evacuated from the site,” said Nasrat Rahimi, spokesman for the interior ministry.
The two attackers, who had opened fire from a construction site near the event, were shot dead, he added.
– ‘Crime against humanity’ –
President Ashraf Ghani denounced “a crime against humanity”, in a press release.
The attack was aimed at a ceremony commemorating the death of Abdul Ali Mazari, a politician from the Hazara minority, whose members are overwhelmingly Shiite in a largely Sunni Afghanistan.
Last year, the same ceremony had already been targeted by mortar fire. The Islamic State group then claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed at least 11 people.
The incident comes less than a week after the Doha agreement was signed on February 29.
A partial truce instituted at Washington’s request on February 22 was lifted on Monday by the Taliban. They have since multiplied attacks against the Afghan security forces, highlighting the difficulty of dialogue between the insurgents and the government in Kabul, another condition of the Doha agreement.
The inter-Afghan meeting, scheduled for March 10 in Oslo, seems badly started, while Afghan President Ashraf Ghani rejects one of the main points of this agreement: the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for that of up to 1,000 members of the Afghan forces in the hands of the insurgents.
Suhail Shaheen reiterated the rebels’ position on Twitter on Friday. Taliban ready to negotiate next Tuesday “if provisions of the deal are put in place and prisoners are released,” he said, delay in talks can only be blamed on “other parties” .
Among the security arrangements that the Taliban have pledged to respect is also the assurance that they will not assist extremist groups and that they will prevent them from using Afghanistan as a base to threaten security. of the United States or their allies.
The Islamic State group, present in Afghanistan since 2015, has multiplied attacks against the Shiite community in the country. In recent months, it has been weakened by US air strikes and multiple offensives by government forces and the Taliban.
Driven from its stronghold of Nangarhar, a province bordering Pakistan, its combatants remain present in the neighboring territory of Kunar as well as in Kabul.
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Article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by News Observatory staff in our US newsroom.