Seven dead as explosions rock funeral in tense Kabul

Afghan policemen arrive at the site of blasts in Kabul, Afghanistan on June 3, 2017.
Afghan policemen arrive at the site of blasts in Kabul, Afghanistan on June 3, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

KABUL (AFP) - Explosions rocked the funeral of an Afghan politician’s son in Kabul Saturday (June 3), killing at least seven people and wounding dozens, in fresh carnage that spiked tensions in a city already on edge.

Witnesses reported three blasts at the burial site of Salim Ezadyar, who was among four people killed on Friday when an anti-government protest over spiralling insecurity in Kabul degenerated into street clashes with police.

The hilly, wind-swept cemetery was littered with bloodied corpses and dismembered limbs, local television footage showed, with one witness telling AFP that “people were blown to pieces” due to the impact of the blasts.

“So far seven dead bodies and 119 wounded people have been brought to Kabul hospitals,” health ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh told AFP.

The funeral of Salim Ezadyar, the son of an influential Afghan senator, was attended by senior government figures including Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, but they escaped unharmed.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, with the Taliban – the biggest insurgent group in Afghanistan – denying any involvement.

The fresh killings are likely to further polarise a city that has been on edge since a truck bombing on Wednesday in Kabul’s diplomatic quarter killed 90 people and wounded hundreds, in the deadliest attack on the Afghan capital since 2001.

President Ashraf Ghani urged restraint after the funeral bombings, saying: “The country is under attack. We must stay united.”

Wednesday’s assault highlighted the ability of militants to strike even in the capital’s most secure district, home to the presidential palace and foreign embassies that are enveloped in a maze of concrete blast walls. The government has blamed the Taleban-allied Haqqani Network for the attack.

On Friday, the district centre again became a battlefield when hundreds of demonstrators incensed by the bombing clashed with police, prompting officials to beat them back with live rounds in the air, tear gas and water cannon.

CITY ON LOCKDOWN

Police on Saturday locked down much of Kabul city, with armed checkpoints and armoured vehicles patrolling the streets to prevent a repeat of Friday’s violence.

Before the blasts at the funeral, authorities had sealed off roads in the centre of the city, citing the threat of new attacks on large gatherings of people.

“We have intelligence reports that our enemies are trying again to carry out attacks on gatherings and demonstrations,” Kabul garrison commander Gul Nabi Ahmadzai said earlier Saturday.

“We hope that people will stay away from protests.”

But dozens of protesters still gathered under a tent close to the presidential palace calling for Ghani’s government to resign, but the assembly was largely peaceful.

“Any government attempt to disrupt our fair and just demonstration will show their complicity with terrorist groups and the perpetrators of Wednesday’s attack,” said Asif Ashna, a spokesman for the protesters.

“It is the duty of the government to ensure security to the protesters... and the government will be held responsible for any violence.”

The United Nations and a host of international allies have urged the protesters for restraint.

“The enemy seeks to manipulate the people’s anger and sadness to create division and sow instability,” the US embassy said in a statement.

“Now is the time to stand unified and announce to the enemies that Afghans... will not allow cowards to break the resolve to achieve a stable and peaceful nation. The enemies of Afghanistan cannot win. They will not win.”