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Afghan President Vows No Weakening Of Democratic Process After Deadly Blast


Kabul residents walk past the ruins and rubble aftre a blast at voter-registration center on April 22.

KABUL -- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says a deadly suicide bombing outside a voter registration center in the capital, Kabul, will not "weaken" the country's "democratic process."

The bombing on April 22 in Dashte Barchi, a heavily Shi'ite-populated area in western Kabul, killed at least 57 people and wounded 119 others, although officials said the death toll could rise.

The Islamic State (IS) extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news agency. The Sunni group has frequently targeted Afghanistan’s Shi'ite minority, which its views as "apostates."

Ghani condemned the attack but said it "cannot divert us from our aims or weaken this national democratic process."

The government has set up more than 7,000 centers across the country to handle some 10 million voter registrations for upcoming elections.

Election officials have acknowledged that security is a major concern as the Taliban and other militant groups control large swaths of the country, and some officials have speculated that elections could be delayed if there are major disruptions to the registration process.

Several attacks on registration centers have already been reported since the process began on April 14 ahead of long-delayed parliamentary elections scheduled for October.

That vote is due to be followed by a presidential election in 2019.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danesh said a bomber on foot targeted a crowd that had gathered to pick up national identification cards.

The blast killed at least 31 people and the dead and injured included many women and at least eight children, Public Health Ministry spokesman Wahidullah Majruh told RFE/RL.

"There were women, children. Everyone had come to get their identity cards," bystander Bashir Ahmad told Reuters.

The explosion left a blood-stained street littered with damaged cars, shattered glass, and rubble.

Kabul Suicide Attack Kills Dozens
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U.S. Acting Secretary of State John J. Sullivan said in a statement on April 22 that he "strongly" condemned the attack and extended the U.S. government’s "deepest condolences to the families of the victims who have suffered an immeasurable loss."

"This senseless violence targeting innocent civilians exercising their fundamental democratic rights exposes the savagery and inhumanity of terrorists," he said.

UN chief Antonio Guterres also condemned the attack, saying those responsible for planning it must be brought to justice.

"They must not be allowed to succeed in deterring Afghan citizens from carrying out their constitutional right to take part in forthcoming elections," he said in a statement.

Tadamichi Yamamoto, who heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said the attack "appears to be part of a wholly unacceptable effort by extremists to deter Afghan citizens from carrying out their constitutional right to take part in elections."

Bilal Sidiqi, a spokesperson for Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission, told RFE/RL that "attacking civilians at a public place is as barbaric, criminal, inhuman, and illegal as it can get."

Adding to the confusion on April 22, a NATO military convoy in the capital accidentally struck and injured a child, triggering protests that were quickly dispersed by police. NATO said the child had been taken to the hospital and was in a stable condition.

With reporting by Radio Free Afghanistan, AP, AFP, Reuters, and dpa
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