Death toll rises drastically in deadliest attack on top Afghan leader Abdullah Abdullah

Death toll rises drastically in deadliest attack on top Afghan leader Abdullah Abdullah

KABUL - At least 30 people were killed when gunmen opened fire during a ceremony attended by country’s top politicians in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Friday.

Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah escaped unharmed, but at least 55 people were injured, officials said.

This was the first major attack on the capital since the deal between the US and Taliban was signed last Saturday. The Taliban denied responsibility.

The same event, commemorating the death of an Afghan Shia leader, was attacked by Islamic State militants in 2019.

The shots were fired from a nearby building which is under construction, according to police. The ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of ethnic Hazara leader Abdul Ali Mazari’s death at the hands of the Taliban was being broadcast live, and people were seen fleeing as the sound of gunfire rang out.

Wahidullah Mayar, health ministry spokesman, said that “27 bodies” had been recovered.

Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said women and children were among the dead. “The figures will change,” he said.

Nizamuddin Jalil, a health ministry official, gave a slightly higher toll, saying 29 people had been killed and 30 others wounded.

The Taliban immediately denied responsibility for the assault, which occurred at the commemoration ceremony for Abdul Ali Mazari, a politician from the Hazara ethnic group.

An Islamic State group-claimed attack on the same ceremony last year saw a barrage of mortar fire kill at least 11 people.

Photos on social media showed several dead bodies being collected after the attack. President Ashraf Ghani condemned the massacre, calling it a “crime against humanity”.

The ceremony was attended by many of the country’s political elite, including Afghanistan’s chief executive Abdullah Abdullah. The interior ministry later confirmed to reporters that “all the high-ranking officials were safely evacuated from the scene”.

“We left the ceremony following the gunfire, and a number of people were wounded, but I do not have any reports of martyred people for now,” Hazara leader Mohammad Mohaqiq Afghan media.