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Kabul in mourning after deadliest attack in 15 yrs

Kabul was plunged into mourning on Sunday after the deadliest attack in 15 years killed 80 people and left hundreds maimed, reigniting concern that the Islamic State group was seeking to expand its foothold in Afghanistan.

Tempers were frayed a day after the twin bombings that tore through crowds of Shia Hazara protesters, as many anxiously searched hospitals and morgues, looking among the mutilated bodies for missing relatives.

The attack in the majority Sunni country highlighted the risk of sectarian disharmony in a nation that has largely avoided the bloody strife between Sunnis and Shias across much of the Muslim world.

“I promise you that I will avenge the blood of our loved ones on the perpetrators of this crime, wherever they are,” President Ashraf Ghani said, declaring a national day of mourning.

The bombings occurred as thousands of Hazara protesters had gathered to demand for a multi-million-dollar power line pass through their electricity-starved province of Bamiyan, one of the most deprived areas of Afghanistan. 

Ghani renamed the site of the attack as “Martyr’s Square”. It remained littered with scorched metal, charred flesh, scalloped clothes and forlorn personal items including shoes, ID cards and protest banners with messages such as “Don’t eliminate us”.

Many protesters defiantly camped there overnight, holding candlelight vigils and reciting Koranic verses even though the government announced a 10-day ban on public gatherings on security grounds.

The wounded overwhelmed city hospitals, with reports of blood shortages and urgent appeals for donors swirling on social media.

IS, which controls territory across Syria and Iraq, claimed the bombings in a statement carried by its affiliated Amaq news agency, calling it an attack on a “gathering of Shiites”.

The devastating attack in the capital represents a major escalation for IS, which so far has largely been confined to the eastern province of Nangarhar where they are known for brutality including beheadings. 

The Taliban are more powerful than IS, strongly denied any involvement in the attack.
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