Afghanistan: 50 feared dead after blast hits protest march in Kabul

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hazara-minority

A suicide bomber hit a large demonstration by members of Afghanistan’s Hazara minority in Kabul on Saturday. 50 are feared dead and dozens others have been wounded, officials said.

Photographs posted on social media showed bodies, apparently at the site of the explosion, close to where thousands of people had been protesting over the route of a planned multimillion dollar power line.

Thousands of people from Afghanistan’s Hazara minority had gathered to demand changes to the route of a planned multi-million dollar power transmission line.

The demonstrators were demanding the 500 kV transmission line from Turkmenistan to Kabul be rerouted through two provinces with large Hazara populations, an option the government says would cost millions and delay the badly needed project by years.

Much of the city centre was sealed off with stacks of shipping containers and other obstacles and security was tight with helicopters patrolling overhead but there was no violence by the protestors until the blast rocked the city.

The Persian-speaking Hazara, estimated to make up about 9 percent of the population, are Afghanistan’s third largest minority but they have long suffered discrimination. Thousands were killed during Taliban rule. However, they are politically well organised and several of their leaders are in President Ashraf Ghani’s delicately balanced national unity government, which has added to the sensitivity surrounding the demonstration.

Last month, an Afghan police convoy was attacked by a suicide bomber outside capital Kabul killing 40 policemen. The Taliban had claimed responsibility for the attack.

This is a developing story, more details are awaited.