Deadly Suicide Bombing in Kabul Kills 57 People Registering to Vote
A suicide bomber detonated explosives at a voting center in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, killing at least 57 people as they registered to vote. ISIS has already claimed responsibility for the attack.
The bomb was heard across the entire city when it was set off on Sunday morning, its sheer force damaging nearby vehicles, and sending the western area of Kabul into a state of lockdown.
Out of the 57 people killed in the attack, 25 were men, 22 were women, eight were children, and two were unidentifiable bodies, according to Wahidullah Majrooh, a spokesman for the Afghan Health Ministry. Additionally, as stated by Public Health Ministry spokesman Wahid Majro, at least 119 others were wounded in the attack.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombing via its Amaq news agency. It specified that it was targeting Shiite apostates in the statement released on the attack, since the voter registration center was located in Kabul’s Dashte Barchi neighborhood. The neighborhood is home to a community of predominantly Shiite Muslims, who represent Afghanistan’s religious minority and have been directly targeted by ISIS in the past.
However, many believe that the true motivation behind the ISIS-sponsored suicide bombing was to purposefully disrupt the voter registration process in Afghanistan. According to General Daud Amin, Kabul’s police chief, the suicide bomber specifically targeted civilians who had come to receive their national identification cards.
Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections are scheduled for October of this year, and will be followed by presidential elections in 2019. This set of elections has been delayed for three years, ever since a fraud-infested presidential election led Afghanistan’s coalition government to contend with the responsibility of ensuring fair and free elections in the nation’s next voting cycle.
However, since voter registration first began a week ago, there have been at least four attacks directly targeting voter registration centers like the one hit on Sunday. Many Afghan officials worry about how the attacks will affect voter registration and turnout in a country historically characterized by voter fatigue.
“We are concerned about the rate of voter registration,” said Bashir Ahmad Tayanj, a spokesman for the Junbish party, to the New York Times. “If people don’t take part in the election, it will be meaningless”, he added.
Tayanj’s concern is justified, given the fact that making Afghanistan’s elections meaningless may be the goal for both ISIS and the Taliban. Both militant groups, according to what Afghanistan’s interior minister told BBC earlier this year, aim to spur disbelief in traditional governmental practices among Afghanistan’s people and promote chaos in the country. Already, BBC research has found that the Afghan government has firm control of only 30% of the country.
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres condemned the bombing on Sunday night, standing firmly as an ally of the Afghan government. In reference to the militant groups that plague Afghanistan, Guterres said “They must not be allowed to succeed in deterring Afghan citizens from carrying out their constitutional right to take part in forthcoming elections.”
In the face of mounting carnage and devastation that threaten Afghanistan’s current and future hopes for stability, the Afghan government must prioritize the need to ensure safety for people registering to vote for its national elections.