Deadly attack outside voters’ registration office injures 119; Schoolchildren among victims
Daesh claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed more than 50 would-be voters in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Sunday.
The attack may cause further concern among Afghans who already seem disinterested in registering for the crucial elections to select a new parliament and choose new members for provincial councils on Oct. 20. It occurred in the Dashte Barchi part of Kabul, a Shia-dominated area where Daesh has conducted a number of deadly attacks against the Shia-populated areas in recent months.
Interior ministry officials said the bomber blew himself up outside offices used for voters’ registration where, according to the health ministry, 63 died and 119 other people were wounded. Some schoolchildren were among the victims, hospital officials told Arab News.
Abdullah Abdullah, the country’s chief executive, in a tweet, said the attack will not deter Afghans from voting.
“I strongly condemn the terrorist attack on the voters’ registration center in Kabul. I stand with those affected by this cowardly attack. Our resolve for fair and transparent elections will continue and terrorists won’t win against the will of the Afghan people.”
Sunday’s attack was the deadliest against the elections process since the launch of registration more than a week ago in Afghanistan. Other attacks were minor and happened in remote areas.
The turnout of those registering is said to be far lower — a sign of lack of interest among Afghans because of fraudulent past elections and the way many leaders and politicians failed to deliver on even minor promises given during the campaign.
“There were women, children. Everyone had come to get their identity cards,” said Bashir Ahmad who had been nearby the blast, which occurred despite heightened security measures following the January attack.
Voter registration centres have been set up across Afghanistan ahead of long-delayed parliamentary and district council elections due to be held in October and there have been serious concerns that militants might attack them.
President Ghani has been under heavy pressure from his international partners to ensure the elections are held this year, ahead of a presidential election due in 2019 although there has been widespread scepticism that they will take place.
“They should be keeping the country safe, if they can’t, someone else should be in their place,” said Sajeda, who was wounded in the blast along with three other members of her family as they lined up for their cards. Voter registration began this month but there have already been a number of attacks apparently aimed at disrupting the preparations.
Also on Sunday, a roadside bomb near a voter registration centre in the northern city of Pul-i Khumri killed six members of a family and wounded three as they drove past the site although there was no indication the attacks were linked.
Unless the process of registering millions of voters, many of whom do not have national identity cards, can be completed before winter sets, the vote would almost certainly have to be postponed until next year.
According to UN figures, more than 750 people have been killed or maimed in suicide attacks and bombings by militant groups during the three months to March.—Agencies