The Islamic State has taken credit for a suicide bombing Saturday that killed 81 people and wounded another 231 in the Afghan capital of Kabul, marking the country’s deadliest attack since U.S. forces invaded in 2001.
The massive attack marked first time ISIS has been able to hit Kabul itself. ISIS targeted a peaceful protest march by Afghanistan’s Hazara community, which is made up of Shiite Muslims. The terrorist group considers the Shia branch of Islam heretical, and has frequently targeted Shiite Muslims in other attacks across the Middle East.
Several video recordings of the attack showed body parts, blood and clothing strewn across the city streets. Authorities believe two ISIS suicide bombers mounted the strike. Haroon Chakhansuri, a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, told the Associated Press that one of the bombers was shot and killed before he could detonate his explosives. The video below shows the scene of the attack as it happened.
— Syria Today (@todayinsyria) July 23, 2016
ISIS claimed responsibility via a statement issued through its Amaq news agency. Taliban forces were quick to send out their own statement denying involvement, alleging that ISIS was attempting to “ignite a civil war.”
Suicide bombers often work in pairs. The goal is to set off an initial bomb, usually in a crowded city street or building, and follow it up with another when emergency personnel attempt to aid the wounded. Witnesses told the AP that Afghan security forces shot into the air just after the explosion in an apparent attempt to disperse the crowd.
— Conflict News (@Conflicts) July 23, 2016
“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,” Chakhansuri told the AP.
ISIS has a small, but growing presence along Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan. Afghan security forces have been mainly focused on countering a resurgent Taliban threat across the country, though ISIS has been able to pick off recruits disgruntled with both the Taliban and al-Qaida. While the terrorist group has engaged in smaller attacks in Afghanistan, Saturday’s is unprecedented.
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