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U.N. Describes Afghan Bombings as War Crime | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Demonstrators from Afghanistan’s Hazara minority attend a protest in Kabul, May 16, 2016 REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

Kabul-Afghanistan witnessed a day of national mourning on Sunday over the death of more than 80 people in twin suicide bombings that targeted a peaceful protest, in an attack claimed by ISIS.

ISIS said that it carried out the bombing that targeted members of Afghanistan’s Hazara Shi’ite minority.

President Ashraf Ghani vowed in a televised speech to bring the perpetrators to justice.

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

He renamed the site of the attack as “Martyr’s Square.”

As well as the more than 80 dead, some 230 people were injured.

The attack was described by the top U.N. official in Afghanistan as a “war crime.”

The bombings also drew condemnation and offers of support from countries including Russia and the United States.

The Hazara, a Persian-speaking minority who make up about 9 percent of the population, have long suffered discrimination and violence. They have by and large supported Ghani’s government, which includes some of their senior leaders, but many complain their support has not been returned.

“They sold us and we will never forget this,” said Ghulam Abbas, a Hazara mourner. “They’ve built skyscrapers for themselves and their families from our blood.”

The devastating attack in the capital represents a major escalation for ISIS, which so far has largely been confined to the eastern province of Nangarhar where it is notorious for brutality including beheadings.

The Afghan government is currently in the middle of an operation backed by NATO airstrikes against ISIS in Nangarhar, after Ghani earlier this year claimed that the group had been defeated.

NATO this month said the group’s influence was waning as it steadily lost territory, with fighters largely confined to two or three districts in the province from around nine in January.

The National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency, said the attack was masterminded by Abu Ali, an ISIS commander in Nangarhar’s volatile Achin district.

“This heinous attack was made all the more despicable by the fact that it targeted a peaceful demonstration,” the White House said.