Islamic State militants-claimed attack on Afghan election center leaves 57 dead
Afghan shopkeeper Ali Rasuli was standing at the end of a long queue of people waiting to pick up their national ID certificates on Sunday when a fireball erupted in front of him. The suicide bombing outside a voter and ID registration center in Kabul killed at least 57 people, injured 119 and briefly blinded Rasuli, leaving him with leg and abdominal injuries.
The blast, which was claimed by the Islamic State group, caused carnage in the street in the heavily Shia-populated western neighborhood.
“I found myself covered in blood, with dead people—women and children—around me,” 26-year-old Rasuli told AFP from his bed at Kabul’s Isteqlal Hospital where around 50 of the wounded had been rushed for treatment.
The smell of blood permeated the hospital. In the morgue around a dozen bodies lay on the floor, including those of several children. Around 40 other wounded were taken to a trauma center run by Italian NGO Emergency. Hundreds of relatives stood outside on the street waiting for news.
Rasuli was among hundreds outside the registration center on Sunday morning waiting to pick up their tazkira, or national ID document, which Afghans need to register to vote in legislative elections scheduled for Oct. 20.
The government has been pushing people to register at more than 7,000 polling centers around the country as it seeks to hold credible and fraud-free elections.
“They all wanted to vote,” Rasuli said.
Ali Jan was one of them. The 21-year-old student, who had planned to take part in his first-ever elections in October, tried to pick up his tazkira on Saturday but was turned away because officials had run out of paper. He went back on Sunday in hopes of better luck but instead was caught up in the blast.
“They said the tazkira is needed to vote, but if they keep killing us how can we vote?” he told AFP from his hospital bed, his head bandaged.
It was at least the third attack on a voter registration center since April 14 when authorities began a two-month process to register up to 14 million adults ahead of long-delayed parliamentary and district council elections.
Outside Isteqlal Hospital grief mixed with anger among anxious relatives waiting for news of loved ones. They directed their fury at the Afghan government and its apparent inability to protect ordinary people from suicide attacks.
“Our patience is running out. This government should take responsibility for the lives of all these innocent people lost every day,” a man called Hussain, whose cousin was wounded in the blast, told AFP. “Nobody will go to vote anymore.”