Deadly blasts hit funeral mourners in Afghan capital

Smoke rises from the site after a blast in Kabul, as conflict continues in the Afghan capital. Photo: Reuters
Smoke rises from the site after a blast in Kabul, as conflict continues in the Afghan capital. Photo: Reuters

A series of blasts in Kabul on Saturday killed at least six people at a funeral for one of the victims of clashes between police and protesters a day before.

The explosions continued a wave of violence in the capital since a devastating truck bomb on Wednesday and prompted a renewed appeal for calm from the United Nations special envoy to Afghanistan.

Authorities had blocked the streets of Kabul in a bid to prevent a repeat of the bloody confrontation between protesters and police on Friday.

UN envoy Tadamichi Yamamoto issued a statement calling for "urgent measures to halt the cycle of violence".

"Calm is now called for. Ensuring security in Kabul is an urgent priority, as this city continues to experience the highest number of civilian casualties," he said.

The violence, fuelled by public anger over the inability of President Ashraf Ghani's divided government to ensure security in Kabul, has exacerbated political tensions between rival factions, and Ghani issued a call for unity.

It further complicates the situation confronting US and coalition officials as they work on plans expected to see an increase of between 3,000 and 5,000 in the number of foreign troops in Afghanistan.

"The country is under attack," Ghani said in a message on Twitter. "We must be strong and united."

The interior ministry said there were six dead and 87 wounded from Saturday's blasts.

Kabul's Italian-run Emergency Hospital, which has handled a stream of trauma injuries over the past few days, said it had treated 20 wounded brought in to the hospital.

Earlier it said that 19 people had been reported killed but later confirmed it had been referring to media reports and said there were no dead at the hospital. Eyewitnesses at the funeral said that they had seen at least 12 dead.

Government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah was at the funeral but was unharmed, while survivors said a series of explosions had ripped through the crowd, most of whom appeared to be linked to Abdullah's mainly Tajik Jamiat-e-Islami party.

"There were sounds of explosions everywhere and I saw my hands and face were on fire," said Mohammad Azim, who was being treated for burns at the Emergency Hospital. "There were parts of human bodies everywhere."

One of the most bloody weeks in Kabul for months began with the devastating truck bomb attack in the city's diplomatic zone on Wednesday morning which killed more than 80 people and wounded more than 460.

That was followed by five more deaths on Friday during clashes which broke out between protesters and police at a rally demanding the resignations of Ghani and Abdullah over repeated security failures.

As the violence has continued, it has become increasingly politicised, exacerbating tensions between rival ethnically based political groups.

The Taliban, which has often carried out bomb attacks in the past, issued a swift denial that it had any role and instead blamed factional rivalries in the government's own camp, the group's spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

In the first three months of the year at least 715 civilians were killed across the country, after almost 3500 in 2016, the deadliest year on record for Afghan civilians.

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