At a crucial moment at which the historic US-Taliban peace deal appears hanging by a thread – if not already dead altogether – and as Pompeo is dubiously pledging to keep it alive and push forward, gunmen have carried out a massacre in Kabul which nearly killed top Afghan political leader, Abdullah Abdullah.
At a moment top national leaders were attending a Shia commemoration ceremony in the Afghan capital, gunmen unleashed a hail of bullets in a major coordinated attack, killing at least 27 people, according to a health ministry statement.
“Twenty-seven bodies and 29 wounded transported by … ambulance so far,” a health ministry spokesman told Reuters in the aftermath. The number of wounded was later updated to at least 55 injured in the attack.
Crucially, the country’s Chief Executive and presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah escaped unharmed, as well as the chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council Karim Khalili — who was giving a speech at the very moment the attack started, said to include rockets fired toward the crowd.
Khalili is seen in video frantically leaving the stage mid-speech as gunfire rings out, fleeing for his life:
The video of attack when Mohammad Karim Khalili, was giving a speech. pic.twitter.com/EZglGlGiZg
— Tamana Ashna (@tamanaashna) March 6, 2020
“The attack started with a boom, apparently a rocket landed in the area, Abdullah and some other politicians … escaped the attack unhurt,” Abdullah’s spokesman, Fraidoon Kwazoon, told Reuters.
CNN describes that armed men began firing down on the crowd from a nearby high-rise building, and in the hours after security forces were described as still pursuing the attackers.
Abdullah Abdullah said after escaping: “I will not blame anybody for this because I don’t have a full picture from our security forces, but we need to know who is, or who were, behind it,” according to CNN.
Crucially, the Taliban denied any involvement in the attack, and it’s as yet unclear just who was behind it, though the same commemoration event of a prior Shia national unity figure has in past been subject of armed attack.