Afghanistan has marked a national day of mourning after at least 80 people were killed by a suicide bomber attack on a peaceful demonstration.
Funerals were to begin in western Kabul yesterday as families collected their dead from hospitals and mortauries across the capital, and graves were dug in preparation.
Authorities said another 231 people were wounded, some seriously, in Saturday’s attack on a march by members of the ethnic Hazara community, who are predominantly Shiite Muslim.
The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group.
Before the attack, thousands of Hazaras had marched through Kabul to demand the re-routing of a power line through their impoverished province of Bamiyan, in the central highlands.
The office of President Ashraf Ghani said that march organisers had been warned to call off the demonstration after intelligence was received that an attack was likely.
But Daud Naji, a member of the Enlighten Movement which organised the marches, said yesterday that they had been told only that there was a “heightened risk” of attack and had subsequently cancelled nine of ten planned routes.
Hazaras account for about 15 per cent of Afghanistan’s population, estimated at around 30 million, and often complain of discrimination.
The attack has raised concerns about sectarianism, and the Interior Ministry announced a ban on public gatherings and demonstrations in a potential bid to avoid any inter-communal strife.
However Hazara demonstrators have continued to occupy Demazang Square, where the attack took place as the march was winding down and some were preparing to set up a camp, Mr Naji said, until three conditions had been met.
He said the Enlighten Movement wished to have its own representatives, as well as others from international human rights organisations, involved in a commission Mr Ghani has established to investigate the incident. The movement also wanted the pipeline re-routed through Bamiyan, as originally demanded.