ISIS is claiming responsibility for killing dozens of people during a peaceful demonstration by a minority group in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday.
“I saw tens of people laying down in blood around me and hundreds of people running away from the scene,” said Fatima Faizi, an Afghan freelance journalist.
So far, 64 bodies and more than 260 wounded people were taken to hospitals in Kabul, according to Ismail Kawoosi, a spokesman for the Afghan Health Ministry.
The attack, the worst in terms of casualties in several weeks, drew attention to ISIS instead of the Taliban, which had been credited with recent bombings.
Two ISIS fighters detonated their suicide belts among the protesters, according to ISIS’ media wing, Amaq.
The jihadist terrorist group has been stepping up attacks worldwide — and most recenlty in Afghanistan — while losing territory in its self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
The blast in Kabul on Saturday afternoon happened during a demonstration by members of the Hazara, a Shiite minority group, near the Afghan Parliament building and Kabul University.
The group was demanding a large power project that could potentially ensure a power supply through their home Bamyan province, a relatively isolated area west of Kabul.
Accounting for up to one-fifth of Afghanistan’s population, Hazaras, a Persian-speaking people who mainly live in central Afghanistan, have long been branded outsiders for their Shia faith and far Asian features in the country dominated by followers of the Sunni branch of Islam, according to a 2008 National Georgraphic article.
The Hazara in the past have demanded the government protect them from attacks that they have blamed on the Sunni Taliban and ISIS.
On November 11, thousands of protesters marched through Kabul with coffins containing the decapitated bodies of seven Hazaras, four men, two women and one child. The protesters demand justice for the beheadings, chanting slogans seeking death for the Taliban and ISIS.
Saturday’s attack is the latest in a rash of kidnappings and bombings in Kabul, which have heightened security fears in the nation’s capital.
The Taliban have claimed responsibility for other recent attacks.
Three weeks ago, two Taliban suicide bombers killed 34 people when they attacked a convoy of buses carrying newly graduated police officers in Kabul.
On June 20 in the Afghan capital, a suicide bomber killed 14 Nepali security contractors who worked for the Canadian embassy.