The Latest: US commander condemns Afghan bomb attack


KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Latest on the deadly bombing of a mass demonstration by members of Afghanistan’s ethnic Hazara minority in the capital, Kabul (all times local):

6.00 p.m.

The commander of U.S. and NATO armed forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson, condemns the bomb attack on a protest march in Kabul that killed at least 61 people.

“Our condolences go out to those who are affected by today’s attack,” Nicholson says in a statement issued by the Resolute Support mission in Kabul on Saturday. “We strongly condemn the actions of Afghanistan’s enemies of peace and remain firmly committed to supporting our Afghan partners and the National Unity Government.”

The United States has 9.800 troops in Afghanistan working with Afghan forces against the Taliban, Islamic State and other insurgent groups.

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4:30 p.m.

An Afghan official says the death toll in the bombing of a mass protest in Kabul has risen to 61.

Dr. Waheed Majroeh, the head of international relations for the Ministry of Public Health, says Saturday that 207 people were also wounded by the blast, which was claimed by the Islamic State group.

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4:20 p.m.

The spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has told The Associated Press that the central government had shared intelligence with the organizers of a protest march in Kabul that was bombed, warning that the marchers faced a possible “terrorist attack.”

Spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri tells AP Saturday that government officials warned the march organizers that they risked attack because, “We knew that terrorists wanted to bring sectarianism to Kabul, and cause splits within our community.”

He says he the president will meet leaders of the Hazara demonstrators later today. Many of the leaders did not attend Saturday’s demonstration.

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4 p.m.

An Afghan Health Ministry official says at least 31 people have been killed and 160 wounded in the bombing of a protest march in the capital, Kabul.

Waheed Majroeh, the head of international relations for the Ministry of Public Health, said that 31 people had been confirmed dead, and another 160 wounded.

He said the figure was likely to rise, “as the condition of many of the injured is very serious.”

The bombing Saturday, claimed by the Islamic State group according to a statement posted on the IS-linked Aamaq online news agency, struck a group of ethnic Hazara demonstrators who had been marching through Kabul since the morning.

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3:45 p.m.

The Islamic State group is claiming responsibility for the deadly bombing of a protest march in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

A statement reported Saturday by the IS-Linked Aamaq online news agency said two IS militants detonated their explosive vests amid the crowds of minority ethnic Hazara demonstrators.

Hazaras are predominantly Shiite Muslims, and IS views all Shiites as apostates. Shortly before the IS statement, the Taliban’s spokesman sent an email to The Associated Press denying any Taliban involvement in the blast

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2:30 p.m.

Witnesses in the Afghan capital Kabul say an explosion has struck a protest march by ethnic Hazaras. Casualties are feared.

The protesters Saturday were demanding that a major regional electric power line be routed through their impoverished home province.

Eyewitness Ramin Anwari described seeing up to eight bodies in the Demazang area, where protesters were preparing to set up a camp after a four-hour march. He had no further details.

One of the march organizers Laila Mohammadi said she arrived at the scene soon after the blast and saw “many dead and wounded people.”

Seddiq Sediqqi, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, says police were working to confirm initial reports of the blast.

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9:30 a.m.

Afghan authorities have closed off streets across the capital, Kabul, in preparation for a demonstration by ethnic Hazaras demanding a planned power line be rerouted through their poverty-stricken province.

Police have been moving trucks and containers into the city overnight Friday to block roads and prevent marchers reaching the city center or the presidential palace.

It is the second march against the current route of a multi-million-dollar regional electricity line. The last one in May attracted tens of thousands.

The so-called TUTAP line is backed by the Asian Development Bank with involvement of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The original plan routed the line through Bamiyan province, in the central highlands, where most of the country’s Hazaras live.

That route was changed in 2013 by the previous Afghan government.

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