Protest turns vi­o­lent in Afghan cap­i­tal

Se­cu­rity forces open fire on demon­stra­tors, wit­nesses say, leav­ing at least 5 dead.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Maija Li­uhto Li­uhto is a spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent.

KABUL, Afghanistan — At least five peo­ple were killed in the Afghan cap­i­tal Fri­day when se­cu­rity forces opened fire on pro­test­ers call­ing for gov­ern­ment ac­count­abil­ity af­ter a bomb blast this week killed at least 90 peo­ple, work­ers at the non­profit Emer­gency Hos­pi­tal and wit­nesses said.

The vi­o­lence oc­curred as the protest in Kabul moved from the site of Wed­nes­day’s bomb blast to­ward the pres­i­den­tial palace, ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports and wit­nesses. Al­though pro­test­ers were largely peace­ful, wit­nesses said some were throw­ing rocks.

Among those killed was Mo­ham­mad Salem Ized­yar, the son of Mo­ham­mad Alam Ized­yar, the deputy speaker of the up­per house of par­lia­ment.

Ized­yar was not im­me­di­ately in a con­di­tion to com­ment on his son’s killing, his sec­re­tary said.

Ah­mad Say­eedi, leader of the com­mit­tee that or­ga­nized the protest, said pres­i­den­tial palace guards, not po­lice, started fir­ing at the pro­test­ers. “The po­lice only fired in the air,” he said.

Pro­tester Muham­mad Na­jib Rah­man, 18, said he saw the con­fronta­tion be­tween guards and demon­stra­tors.

“Peo­ple were mov­ing closer to the pres­i­den­tial palace and the guards stopped them,” Rah­man said. “The pro­test­ers started throw­ing stones at the guards and that’s when the guards opened fire.”

Pro­test­ers blamed the gov­ern­ment for not do­ing enough to im­prove se­cu­rity in the coun­try, and many car­ried plac­ards de­mand­ing the res­ig­na­tions of Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani and the coun­try’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, Ab­dul­lah Ab­dul­lah.

Hun­dreds of peo­ple par­tic­i­pated in the demon­stra­tion Fri­day, two days af­ter the deadly truck bomb­ing blast in Zan­baq Square that also in­jured more than 400 peo­ple. The bomb­ing was one of the worst to strike Kabul since the 2001 U.S.-led mil­i­tary in­va­sion and il­lus­trated the vi­o­lence still faced by Afghans.

Kabul Po­lice Chief Gen. Has­san Shah Frogh said some of the pro­test­ers Fri­day were car­ry­ing guns. At least two pro­test­ers were killed and sev­eral of­fi­cers were in­jured, he said. There were con­flict­ing re­ports about the num­ber of peo­ple killed or in­jured.

Ghani's of­fice is­sued a state­ment of­fer­ing con­do­lences to the fam­i­lies of peo­ple who died in the protest and pledg­ing pun­ish­ment for peo­ple who vi­o­lated laws and se­cu­rity of­fi­cials who ne­glected their du­ties, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported.

“The gov­ern­ment of Afghanistan as­sures that the cul­prits of crimes against peo­ple will be brought to jus­tice and also the lead­er­ship of the gov­ern­ment prom­ises that all those se­cu­rity of­fi­cials who have ne­glected in their duty to pro­vide se­cu­rity for the peo­ple will be pun­ished in ac­cor­dance to the Afghan laws and will be brought to jus­tice,” the state­ment reads.

Safi­ul­lah Si­raji, a 25year-old stu­dent, said he had gone to the protest be­cause of the wors­en­ing se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try.

“If they can’t do any­thing [about the sit­u­a­tion] they should leave and give their posts to some­one else,” Si­raji said. “We wanted to sup­port our army and se­cu­rity forces, but now they opened fire on us.”

Later, the pres­i­dent’s for­mer spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive for re­form and good gov­er­nance, Ah­mad Zia Mas­soud, also ap­peared at the scene of the protest, along with mem­ber of par­lia­ment Ab­dul Latif Pe­dram.

"We want an in­terim gov­ern­ment,” Mas­soud said. He said he was tak­ing part in the protest and was or­ga­niz­ing a sit-in.

Say­eedi said the protest group had no po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion but wanted the gov­ern­ment to do more about pre­vent­ing such vi­o­lence.

“If the gov­ern­ment does not pun­ish the ter­ror­ists and the se­cu­rity of­fi­cials re­spon­si­ble, we will ask for Ghani and Ab­dul­lah to re­sign,” Say­eedi said.

Gun­fire could be heard from the site of the demon­stra­tion well af­ter sun­set, as the pro­test­ers con­tin­ued chant­ing their slo­gans, “Down with Ashraf Ghani” and “Down with the CEO.”

Hedayatullah Amid Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

SE­CU­RITY forces use a wa­ter can­non on a crowd protest­ing this week’s mas­sive sui­cide bomb­ing in Kabul. Pres­i­den­tial palace guards re­port­edly shot at the crowd.

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