Afghan authorities lock down Kabul after protest clashes


More than a thousand people demonstrated yesterday demanding more security in the capital following a powerful truck bomb attack in the city that killed 90 people and wounded more than 450.

Afghan security forces fired weapons into the air to hold the demonstrators back as they approached the Presidential Palace, some throwing rocks. No casualties were immediately apparent.

Protester Amir Arya said a number of his friends were wounded by police as they tried to block the protesters from advancing.

In the Kabul protests more than 1,000 demonstrators with many carrying pictures of bomb victims rallied in the morning near the site of the blast.

Afghan intelligence officials have said that a suicide bomber from the Haqqani network had detonated an explosives-laden sewage tanker in Kabul's diplomatic enclave near the German embassy on Wednesday. Police also sprayed them with water cannons and tear gas.

Ghani's office issued a statement expressing condolences for the families of people who died in the protest but urged protesters not to allow "other opportunists" to use their demonstrations as an opportunity for violence for their own goals.

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He said he had seen dozens of wounded at the hospital, and six dead bodies from the protest.

The Taliban group in a statement earlier rejected the group's hand in the attack but the Afghan officials are saying that the attack was carried out by the notorious Haqqani terrorist network with the support of the Pakistani military intelligence. "The only way to get security is to punish criminals", said protester Asadullah, who like many Afghans goes by only one name.

The pressure on the government complicates the choice facing U.S. President Donald Trump's administration which is considering plans to increase the number of American troops in the country by between 3,000 and 5,000 to help break what U.S. commanders say is a "stalemate" in the war.

Taliban insurgents now control or contest about 40% of the country. Even before the truck attack 715 civilians had been killed in the first three months of 2017.

But in an already tense political climate, the violence underlined the risk of protests exacerbating divisions between ethnic and political groups within the government camp. A security forces tank fired warning shots into the sky. One banner read: "Ghani!"

Despite it's relatively moderate size, the protest highlighted a growing public anger towards the government for failing to ensure public security almost three years after most worldwide troops left the country.