Sat | Nov 17, 2018

Afghanistan marks national day of mourning

Published:Monday | July 25, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Afghan women mourn yesterday during the funeral for victims of Saturday's suicide attack, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Afghanistan held a national day of mourning on Sunday after a suicide bomber killed at least 80 people. (AP Photos/Massoud Hossaini)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP)

Afghanistan marked a national day of mourning on Sunday, a day after a suicide bomber killed at least 80 people who were taking part in a peaceful demonstration in Kabul. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group.

Authorities say another 231 people were wounded, some seriously, in the bombing Saturday afternoon on a march by members of the ethnic Hazara community, who are predominantly Shiite Muslim. Most Afghans are Sunni, and the IS group regards Shiites as apostates.

The attack was the first by IS on Kabul - and the capital's worst since a vicious Taliban insurgency began 15 years ago - raising concerns about the group's reach and capability in Afghanistan.

Bereaved families collected their dead from hospitals and morgues across the capital, and began digging graves as the first funerals went ahead in the west of the capital. Many people chose to bury their dead together with others - rather than in traditional family plots - encouraged by organisers of the Saturday demonstration, who call themselves the Enlighten Movement. In a hilltop graveyard in the Surkh Abad suburb of south-western Kabul, hundreds of people, most of them men, braved high winds and swirling dust to conduct the Shiite funeral rites.

Simple wooden coffins covered in the green Shiite flag were carried by men on their shoulders and lowered into graves that relatives had dug themselves with shovels.

In the city's west, in Omaid-a-Sabz, the grieving chose to bury their dead side by side in long rows. Mullah Mohammad Hassan Rasat said the Hazara people felt a deep sense of injustice and anger that the government had not kept its election promise to ensure that development was equal for all Afghan ethnic groups.

"Our people only want justice and equal development for all," he said.

Hazaras account for up to 15 per cent of Afghanistan's population, estimated at around 30 million, and say they face discrimination. During the Taliban's 1996 to 2001 rule, the Hazaras were often brutally treated.The Saturday attack has raised concerns about sectarianism, and the Interior Ministry announced a ban on public gatherings, except the funerals.