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 25-year-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.”
Liuhto is a special correspondent.