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Afghanistan

Afghanistan: bomber targets gathering of religious leaders who banned suicide attacks

Attack comes after Afghanistan’s top religious body issued a ruling, or a fatwa, declaring suicide attacks forbidden under Islamic law

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 June, 2018, 4:04pm
UPDATED : Monday, 04 June, 2018, 10:25pm

At least seven people were killed Monday when a suicide bomber detonated near a gathering of top clerics in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, roughly one hour after the group proclaimed such attacks a sin, police said.

The blast in the western part of the city, near universities and a police academy, is the latest demonstration of the militants’ chilling ability to carry out attacks in the heart of Kabul, which is now the deadliest place in the country for civilians.

The bomber detonated at the gates of Kabul’s Polytechnic University, police and officials said.

The Loya Jirga tent where thousands of clerics from across Afghanistan were meeting is on the campus.

The tent is a huge venue often used for top religious or government gatherings. “Loya Jirga” means “grand assembly” in Pashto.

Most of the casualties were civilians.

“According to our initial information, seven people have been killed including a policeman. Nine others have been injured, including two policemen,” police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai told media.

Interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish confirmed it was a suicide attack, and said the bomber had been on foot when he detonated his explosives at the university gate.

Police spokesman Stanikzai said the blast was outside the tent.

No group has claimed the attack, but the Taliban issued a statement on Twitter saying its fighters had “nothing to do” with the bombing.

Both the Taliban and Islamic State have stepped up their headline-grabbing assaults on the heavily fortified capital in recent months.

Local media said thousands of clerics had gathered at the Loya Jirga tent for the meeting of the Ulema Council, Afghanistan’s top religious leaders.

Earlier they issued a fatwa against the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have been fighting an insurgency against government forces for nearly 17 years, while other militant groups have also been carrying out attacks.

The Ulema Council – seen by the militants as having some links to the government – termed suicide attacks a sin against Islam. They have issued such fatwas in the past.

“The ongoing war in Afghanistan does not have a legal basis, only Afghans are the victims of this war … (it) does not have religious, national or human value,” they said, according to government officials.

Roads around the university were quickly blocked by security officials after the blast, with heavy traffic jams building in the city as many commuters headed home due to Ramadan, the holy Islamic fasting month, during which government offices close early.

Kabul accounted for 16 per cent of all civilian casualties last year, when 1,831 civilians were killed or wounded nationwide, according to the United Nations.

The myriad attacks in the last 12 months included two of the deadliest in the city since the US invasion: a truck bomb on May 31, 2017 that killed more than 150 people, and an ambulance bomb on January 27 this year which killed more than 100.

The UN has warned that 2018 could be even deadlier.

Many fearful residents have restricted their movements as a result, afraid to linger in bazaars or to become trapped in traffic during rush hour, a prime time for attacks.

Additional reporting by Associated Press