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Afghans help a man who was injured in a deadly explosion that struck a protest march by ethnic Hazaras, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, July 23, 2016.
Afghans help a man who was injured in a deadly explosion that struck a protest march by ethnic Hazaras, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, July 23, 2016. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan was in mourning on Sunday, a day after the deadliest attack in the capital in 15 years killed at least 80 people.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for twin bombings Saturday that targeted a demonstration of thousands of Shiite Hazaras. It was the most high-profile attack by the Sunni militant group in Afghanistan to date.

The Afghan Interior Ministry said in a statement that two suicide bombers caused the blasts. A third bomber, whose vest failed to detonate, was shot dead by security forces, the ministry said.

Marchers in Saturday’s demonstration were demanding that a major regional electric power line be routed through the impoverished Bamiyan province, where many Hazaras live. While most members of the Hazara minority are Shiite Muslims, most Afghans are Sunni.

The original plan for the TUTAP power line called for it to be routed through Bamiyan province. Leaders of the marches have said that the rerouting was evidence of bias against the Hazara community.

Hussain Ali Rezaee, who participated in Saturday’s demonstration, said that people had started funeral ceremonies Sunday morning.

“We were asked by the officials of the Enlighten Movement [who organized the demonstration] not to bury the dead bodies for a while, but we did it anyway,” Rezaee said.

The Interior Ministry said at least 230 were being treated for injuries. A Health Ministry spokes-man gave a higher number of people injured — 260. That’s a downward revision from the Health Ministry’s Saturday estimate of more than 280.

President Ashraf Ghani promised during a television address Saturday night to “avenge the blood” of the victims and declared Sunday a day of mourning. He also announced he was form-ing an investigative committee headed by the attorney general and comprised of government of-ficials and nongovernment representatives.

“Anyone found guilty in the government or outside the government will be punished,” Ghani said.

Rumors of government involvement began circulating Kabul shortly after the attack.

Ghani’s office issued a statement decreeing that the name of Demazang Square, where the de-monstrators had gathered, would be renamed Martyrs’ Square.

Saturday’s attack was the first claimed by the Islamic State group in Kabul. The group has strug-gled to establish a foothold in Afghanistan in the past year, confining its activity to the moun-tainous eastern regions bordering Pakistan.

Recent fighting in the eastern province of Nangarhar displaced hundreds of people and wounded dozens more. Just more than a week ago, Ghani launched a new military operation targeting Is-lamic State.

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

wellman.phillip@stripes.com Twitter: @PhillipWellman

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Phillip is a reporter and photographer for Stars and Stripes, based in Kaiserslautern, Germany. From 2016 to 2021, he covered the war in Afghanistan from Stripes’ Kabul bureau. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics.
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