Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Tinder-Box Country in Mourning - Again

Afghans pray for the victims of a suicide bomb blast during a memorial in Kabul [JAWAD JALALI/EPA]
"We had intelligence over recent days and it was shared with the demonstration organizers."
"We shared our concerns because we knew that terrorists wanted to bring sectarianism to our community."
Haroon Chakhansuri, spokesman, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

"The city of Kabul is totally in shock right now."
"In the past ISIL has carried out attacks in the eastern part of the country, mainly suicide attacks, but not as far as Kabul - they were limited to Nangarhar province along the border with Pakistan."
"If it is true that ISIL is behind this attack, it shows the growing capability of the group."
Al Jazeera's Qais Azimy, Kabul

"I was in the crowd just a few metres away from the blast. It was so loud that I am still in a state of shock."
"I saw dead bodies lying all over the area. Is this the value of human blood here?"
Mehdi Ali, Hazara protester

"Two fighters from Islamic State detonated explosive belts at a gathering of Shi'ites in ... the city of Kabul in Afghanistan." 
Amaq,  ISIL-linked website
The three million-strong Hazara community has been persecuted for decades, with thousands killed by al-Qaeda and the Taliban [Omar Sobhani/Reuters]
 
Islamic State is intent on infiltrating everywhere possible, and even where it is impossible; nothing deters them from making their deadly presence and arousing fear and loathing, from Iraq and Syria on to Libya and Lebanon, France and Belgium, Germany and the United States. Everywhere there are young and restive Muslims receptive to the message that the imperative of jihad is their responsibility as Islam's faithful, they emerge as recruits prepared to do ISIL's bidding.

Afghanistan has seen a steady emergence of an ISIL presence as disaffected Taliban and those loyal to al-Qaeda become bored with their previous loyalties and shift toward the more successful jihadist group whose horrific videos, slickly produced and crowing over their successes in instilling terror into the hearts of their targets influence the readily convinced to join them, because that's where the action is and where the eyes of the world swivel in fascinated horror.

Saturday's bombing that destroyed the lives of 80 and injured over 200 was geared to target Shiites, considered by Islamic State Sunnis to be heretics whose lives have value only as dead offerings to Allah. The government of President Ghani now has the added headache of fully understanding the level of threat posed by Islamic State, gathering strength in his country. Proof-positive of their ability to breach security in the country's capital has been duly noted.

The peaceful demonstration of Hazaris protesting their need to be considered for the same kind of civic infrastructure as other citizens of Sunni-majority Afghanistan was dealt a blow that no community is capable of readily recovering from. The road blocks put in place to prevent the protesters from accessing the city centre much less the presidential palace, served to hamper the transfer of wounded to hospital.

According to witnesses at the scene of the blast, security forces took immediate steps to disperse the crowd in the fear that another bomb would be set off to harm people assembling to give aid to those felled by the first bomb. By then, those demonstrators who were left unharmed sealed the square where the demonstration had been struck, hurling missiles at security forces. 

While outside the hospitals where the wounded were taken, lines formed consisting of volunteers waiting to offer their blood donations.

Afghan officials have reason to believe through their intelligence that disaffected Taliban and Pakistani militant groups, funded and armed through ISIL in Syria and Iraq, comprise the ISIL presence in Afghanistan, with a growing membership. Taliban fighters are not complacent at the presence of ISIL in their geography, resulting in clashes between the groups who battle one another as well as government troops. 

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