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Mortar attack on Shia gathering kills 11 in Afghanistan’s capital

On March 7th 2019, mortars were fired on a political gathering in Kabul, Afghanistan, in an attack that left 11 dead and 95 wounded.

The bombardment took place in Kabul’s western neighbourhood of Dasht-e-Barchi – an area predominantly populated by ethnic minority Hazaras – as the public gathered to remember Abdul Ali Mazari, a leader of the Hazaras, killed by the Taliban in 1995.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombardment, though the Taliban were initially blamed. Hazaras are typically Shia Muslims and are frequent targets of ISIS attacks.

Last year, AOAV recorded a significant increase in casualties from explosive violence in Afghanistan. Civilian casualties increased by 37%; from 3,119 civilian casualties in 2017, to 4,260 in 2018. This was the highest number of civilian casualties recorded in Afghanistan since the monitor began in October 2010.

However, whilst most (78%) of the civilian casualties in Afghanistan were caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) – and, notably, 61% (2,616) were from suicide attacks – ISIS were the main perpetrators.

Civilian casualties from ISIS’ use of explosive weapons in the country rose by 90% compared to the year before (from 676 in 2017 to 1,285 last year). Whilst casualties from Taliban use of explosive actually decreased by 27%, though it is increasingly difficult to attribute responsibility. (There was a 37% increase in civilian casualties from incidents by non-state actors where the perpetrating group was unknown.)

AOAV strongly condemns the use of violence against civilians and calls upon all states and groups to stop using weapons with wide-area impacts in populated areas, due to the severe impact these have on civilians.