KABUL: Rockets fired at a gathering of the Shia Hazara community in the Afghan capital killed three people on Thursday in an attack claimed by the militant Islamic State group.

Thirty-two others were injured, including two children. Security forces killed two suspected attackers, while a third was arrested.

It was the first major attack in Kabul since January when a bomb-laden car exploded near a fortified compound and ended a period of relative calm in the city as Taliban and the United States negotiate a peace settlement.

Tolo News, which had a camera crew reporting live, said at least 10 explosions were heard at the event to commemorate a Hazara leader’s death.

“Our gathering is under attack. Rockets are being dropped on us from every direction,” said Muhammad Mohaqiq, a lawmaker and leader of the main Hazara political party from the stage in comments aired on television.

Hundreds of people, including top government officials such as Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah and three candidates for a July presidential election were at the event. People could be seen scattering in all directions as the rockets fell.

Presidential candidate Mohammad Hanif Atmar was unhurt, but eight of his security guards were wounded. They were in stable condition, said Atmar’s spokesman.

The gathering was for the death anniversary of Abdul Ali Mazari, a Hazara leader who died in 1995 after being taken prisoner by the Taliban.

The attack came a day after a suicide bomb and gun attack on a construction company in the eastern city of Jalalabad killed 16 people. The IS also claimed responsibility for that attack.

Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2019

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