By Siraj Wahab
Explosions ripped through the funeral of an Afghan anti-government protester in Kabul on Saturday, killing at least seven people and wounding dozens in fresh carnage that saw tensions rise in a city already on edge.
The latest killings, which could provoke a new cycle of bloodshed, bring the number of people killed this week to 101, with hundreds injured in one of the worst bouts of violence in the Afghan capital for years.
Witnesses reported three back-to-back blasts during the burial of Salim Ezadyar, who was among four people killed on Friday when a protest over spiraling insecurity in Kabul degenerated into street clashes with police.
The hilly, windswept cemetery was littered with human remains, 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,” Waheed Majroh, a spokesman for the Health Ministry, told AFP.
The funeral of 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 the attack, with the Taliban — the biggest insurgent group in Afghanistan — denying any involvement.
The fresh killings are likely to further polarize 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 made a televised appeal for national unity after the funeral bombings. “The country is under attack,” he said. “We must stay strong and united.”
Baker Atyani, a veteran journalist who has covered militant groups for two decades, blamed the chaos on the power struggles within the Afghan government and the ineffective role of the international coalition led by the US.
“The Haqqani network has said it was not behind the attack; Daesh, which goes by the name the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), said it is not behind the attack; and we have heard the denial from Taliban — all this is strange,” said Atyani.
There is chaos in Afghanistan because “of there being a state with two heads — President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah,” he added.
Ghani is a Pashtun while Abdullah is of mixed Pashtun-Tajik heritage but is often seen as having supported the latter group more strongly. Atyani said the rivalry between the two ethnic groups is very well known.
He added that there has been uncertainty and a deep struggle for power in Afghanistan ever since Abdullah refused to accept the results of the last presidential elections. “It was the former US Secretary of State John Kerry who came up with this weird equation through which he created a slot for a chief executive when there was no such provision in the Afghan constitution,” said Atyani.
“If you look at the larger picture in Afghanistan, this is the failure of all those foreign countries who came into Afghanistan under the US leadership. They could not deliver what they promised to the Afghan people. The international coalition has, in the last 13 years, spent over $1 trillion and yet they failed to bring peace and development to the war-ravaged country,” said Atyani.
“Today, a mere 10 percent of the Afghans have access to electricity,” he added.
The government has blamed the Taliban-allied Haqqani network for the attack.
Atyani said he did not believe in the allegations leveled against Pakistan by the Afghan government.
“There is no love lost between the NDS (National Directorate of Security of Afghanistan) and the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan). As an observer, I do not buy the Afghan intelligence’s assessment that Pakistan is behind this attack. This is not correct.”
According to Atyani, the chaos in Kabul would directly benefit the Taliban. “In any case the writ of the Afghan government does not run large in many districts and towns. In some, there are shadow governments led by the Taliban and in some others there is Daesh which has added to the confusion. There has been no method in Daesh’s madness. All their attacks have been directed against the civilians.”
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