A suicide bombing at an education centre in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul killed 24 people including teenage students and wounded dozens more on Saturday, officials said.
A Ministry of Interior spokesman, Tariq Arian, said security guards had identified a bomber who detonated explosives in the street outside the Kawsar-e Danish centre.
Most of the victims were students aged between 15 and 26, according to the health ministry. Fifty-seven were injured in the attack, the interior ministry said.
A Taliban spokesman on Twitter denied responsibility for the attack, which came at a sensitive time as teams representing the insurgents and the government meet in Qatar to seek a peace deal.
Islamic State claimed responsibility in a statement on Telegram, without providing evidence.
Family members gathered at a nearby hospital, searching for missing loved ones among bags containing the remains of those killed, laid out on the hospital floor, while outside orderlies wheeled injured patients on stretchers for treatment, a Reuters witness said.
‘How much more can we endure?’
The attack, which was condemned by NATO and the Afghan government, took place in an area of west Kabul that is home to many from the country’s Shia community, a religious minority in Afghanistan targeted in the past by groups such as Islamic State.
Dozens of students died in the same area of Kabul in an attack on another education centre in 2018.
A teacher at the Kawsar-e Danish centre, who asked not to be named due to security concerns, said he and other teaching staff were in shock at the targeting of the institution which had provided tutoring to give thousands of children a pathway to higher education.
“All the students were full of energy, belonging to poor families but hoping for a brighter future,” he said.
The latest attack came on the back of heavy fighting in multiple provinces in recent weeks, which has displaced thousands of civilians.
The U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad early on Sunday on Twitter called again for an immediate reduction in violence and an acceleration in the peace process, citing rising violence in the country in recent weeks including a finding by the human rights commission that an Afghan government airstrike had killed 12 children.
“How much more can we endure, as individuals and as society? How many times can we rise?” asked Shaharzad Akbar, chair of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission on Twitter shortly after Saturday’s attack, saying the targeting of civilians was a war crime.
A suicide car bombing on Sunday killed at least 13 people and wounded around 120 others in Afghanistan’s western Ghor province, officials said.
The head of a hospital in Ghor, Mohammad Omer Lalzad, said emergency staff were treating dozens of people with both serious and light injuries from the bombing. He expected the death toll to rise.
Interior Ministry spokesperson Tariq Aran said the car bombing struck near the entrance of the provincial police chief’s office and other nearby government buildings in the area.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Ghor, which comes amid an uptick in attacks by the Taliban as representatives of the group and Afghan government officials hold their first-ever face-to-face talks in Qatar, where the Taliban have had a political office for many years. The negotiations are meant to end decades of war. in Afghanistan.
Arif Aber, spokesperson for the provincial governor in Ghor, said the blast was so strong that its sound could heard across Feroz Koh, the capital city of the province.
“It damaged and partially destroyed a few government buildings, including the police chief’s office, the women’s affairs department and the provincial office for refugees,” Aber said.
Peace talks ongoing
On Friday, the Taliban agreed to suspend attacks in southern Afghanistan, which displaced thousands of residents in recent days. That came after the U.S. vowed to halt all airstrikes and night raids in keeping with the peace agreement the U.S. signed with the Taliban in February.
The U.S. had been conducting airstrikes in support of Afghan forces trying to repel Taliban assaults in Helmand province, which threatened to derail the efforts to end Afghanistan’s war.
The peace talks in Qatar between the Taliban and Afghan government negotiators began in September, but after a ceremonious start became bogged down, mainly in the minutiae of Islamic jurisprudence.
While successful negotiations are seen as critical to ending the fighting, the withdrawal of American troops relies on the Taliban honouring its commitments from the February accord to not support terror groups and fight all militants, most specifically the region’s affiliate of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Donovan Bailey awoke on the morning of July 27, 1996 with two items on his personal to-do list.
The first was to set a world record in the men’s 100-metre Olympic final. The second was to claim Olympic gold as the world’s fastest man.
“My coach, Dan Pfaff, felt I was going to break the world record,” says a reflective Bailey, now 52. “So the time really was not going to matter to me. I knew I was going to run faster than I had ever run before.”
Initially, Bailey thought Pfaff was playing a mind game when he told him a bomb had exploded at 1:25 a.m. in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park, the free concert zone with no metal detectors, no scanners and no controlled access
Without another word, Pfaff left the room.
“That’s just the relationship between Dan and myself,” Bailey says. “Dan is always trying to test me.”
WATCH | News coverage of Atlanta 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing:
CBC News’ Eric Sorensen reports on the infamous Centennial Olympic Park bombing on July 27, 1996 from Atlanta. 5:16
So Bailey sat down to eat his omelette, fresh fruit and toast, while sipping his English breakfast tea with milk and honey. The house manager flipped the television on and the mind game became real.
“I didn’t know how many people had died,” Bailey says of the carnage he saw on the screen. “I didn’t know if they were going to cancel the Olympic Games. I didn’t know what was happening.”
That same morning, Marnie McBean woke up and saw a yellow Post-it note slipped under her door by her coach, Al Morrow.
The note read: Last night, a bomb went off at Centennial Olympic Park. People were injured and/or killed. Expect security delays and/or cancellations. You might want to get an earlier bus.
“Personally, I had 30 family members come down to Atlanta,” McBean says. “And my family, they’re all precarious adventurers. People barely had cell phones, so I couldn’t call them up and make sure everyone was okay.
“So we got on an earlier bus. We didn’t know what was going on, and we’re on the bus that’s supposed to go to our Olympic final.”
Bailey and McBean are among scores of Canadians who remember the terror depicted in the new Clint Eastwood movie, Richard Jewell. The film is based on the true story of Jewell, the Atlanta security guard wrongly suspected in the Centennial Park bombing.
Jewell likely saved many lives that night when he discovered an unattended backpack containing three pipe bombs during a rock concert attended by about 50,000 people. He helped clear the immediate area before a bomb exploded, killing a woman and injuring 111. (A Turkish television camera operator also died when he suffered a fatal heart attack as he rushed to the scene.)
I didn’t know if they were going to cancel the Olympic Games. I didn’t know what was happening.– Donovan Bailey, 1996 100-metre champion
Initially hailed as a hero, Jewell’s life fell apart on July 30 when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran the headline: ‘FBI suspects hero guard may have planted bomb’.
Though police never charged him, many people still thought Jewell — who died in 2007 from complications of diabetes — was responsible for the bombing. It wasn’t until 1998 that authorities charged Eric Rudolph, who pleaded guilty to the bombings in 2005 and is serving a life sentence.
“I think most of us still had the feeling in Atlanta that Olympic security would keep everybody safe and sound and that nothing like this could happen,” says Mark Lee, a broadcaster who worked the 1996 Games for CBC. “It was pre-9/11. You still thought with all the security, you would be safe.”
After a long day of calling volleyball, Lee and commentator Charlie Parkinson arrived back at the International Broadcast Centre. In a scene familiar to every Olympics, they stood outside waiting for a bus that never came.
They managed to arrange a ride, and at around 1 a.m., less than half an hour before the bomb would explode, the pair found themselves about 100 metres from the sound tower at Centennial Olympic Park waiting to be picked up.
At 3:30 a.m., Lee’s phone rang.
“Are you okay?” a CBC manager asked.
“Yeah, I’m asleep,” Lee replied. “What’s going on?”
The manager told Lee he was listed as last being seen leaving the broadcast centre around the time of the explosion.
We started chasing people down. We were trying to find everybody.– Dave Bedford, Canadian Olympic Committee media attache at 1996 Olympics
It was also where Canadian Olympic Committee media attaché Dave Bedford had trudged through Centennial Olympic Park at around the same time before heading back to his sleeping quarters at Clark Atlanta University.
The ringing phone interrupted his slumber with an order to report to the Main Press Centre as soon as possible.
Half asleep, Bedford rushed back but shortly after arriving, the facility received a bomb threat and went into lock-down.
“That kind of scares the hell out of you,” he says. “You’re in there by yourself and none of the other COC staffers can get in or out. It’s a little disconcerting.”
The phone in the COC office rang constantly, with panicked parents calling to check on their loved ones.
“We started chasing people down,” he says. “We were trying to find everybody.”
Olympic security protocols are much more sophisticated these days, but back in Atlanta, Bedford and his colleagues connected with the manager assigned to each team. The manager then physically went out and found each team member.
No injuries to Canadian team members
“Once we determined everyone was accounted for then the messaging was really simple,” he says. “It was just, ‘hey, you, everyone’s accounted for and there are no injuries with Canadian team members.’
“Parents and family members were very happy to hear that.”
Lee woke up around 7:30 a.m. — he had willed himself back to sleep for fear of not being at his best on air — and immediately called his wife.
“I needed to let her know I was okay,” he says. “The Olympics are such a huge undertaking. When you have your loved ones away from an Olympics and they hear something has happened — like a bombing or shooting — everyone thinks you’re right in the middle of it even though it was nowhere near you.”
Except in this case, Lee was way too close for comfort.
That morning, all was quiet when the bus pulled up to the Olympic rowing venue at Lake Lanier. At the entrance, the driver killed the engine and crews conducted their routine bomb sweep before granting the vehicle entrance.
McBean looked over and saw actual spectators in the grandstand — which she saw as a good sign. After all, they wouldn’t let people in if the event was cancelled.
Once inside, McBean huddled with her coach and found out the band Jack Mack and the Heart Attack was performing the night before at Centennial Park.
“[The band] was nobody my family had ever heard of,” McBean says. “So I was like, ‘Odds are super high that my family never went.’ It was just a guess that my family was fine and then we went on with the race day.”
In Lane 4 for the women’s double sculls final, McBean and her partner, Kathleen Heddle, sat in their boat with gold in their sights. Heavy favourites, the Canadians lived up to the hype.
‘Huge chunk of perspective’
Holding off the Chinese and Dutch at the finish, McBean leaned over and kissed her oars in sweet celebration of Canada’s first gold of the Atlanta Games.
Around 2 p.m., McBean and Heddle walked into the lounge in the athlete’s village and saw Olympians from around the world glued to the TV in hopes of learning more about the bombing.
“Kathleen and I were staring at real life,” McBean says. “We had just done this sporting thing, but there was this huge chunk of perspective that came into that moment.”
Already guarded by the RCMP at a safe house in the upscale district of Buckhead, Donovan Bailey received word mid-morning that his 100-metre race was on. From that moment, he intentionally banished any thought of the bombing.
“The 100 metres is the biggest event of every Olympic games since 1896,” he says. “So, for me, coming in being the reigning world champion, and obviously, being a favourite to win, my responsibility was to stay focused and compartmentalize as best as I could the events of that day so that I could really get the job done.”
WATCH | Donovan Bailey reacts to news of Atlanta bombing
Donovan Bailey discusses his reaction to the infamous Centennial Olympic Park bombing, in an interview with CBC Sports’ 1996 Atlanta Olympic host Brian Williams. Bailey won 100 metre Olympic gold on the same day the bombing took place, on July 27, 1996. 1:01
Competing in spite of a torn left adductor, Bailey concentrated on his game plan.
“I felt that the semifinals and obviously the finals would kind of undo the negativity and the clouds around the Olympics,” he said. “And I’m no stranger to that because I did compete for Canada.”
On Bailey’s ample shoulders rested the hopes of Canadians still scarred by memories of 1988 when Ben Johnson was stripped of his Olympic gold after testing positive for steroids at the Games in Seoul, South Korea.
That night, Bailey rode to the stadium in a motorcade with police vehicles both in front and behind him.
“I was the king of the world.” he says with a chuckle.
In the final, the king was the second last man to burst out of the blocks.
“I realized I had a terrible start,” he says. “What I had to do was step back, breathe a little bit and get into my drive phase knowing that when I hit top speed, I would pass everybody.”
And pass everybody he did. Knowing he would win at 70 metres, Bailey glided over the finish line and saw a sea of Canadian flags to his right.
He looked at the clock: 9.84 seconds — a new Olympic and world record.
“I opened my mouth,” he says. “It was a reactionary thing. I got it done. Let me take my flag and take my place in history.”
Standing to the right of that historical moment was an exhausted Dave Bedford, still working after the terrifying experience at the Main Press Centre.
“Donovan ran right by me with both his arms down going at his side and his mouth gaping open,” says Bedford, now the chief executive officer of Athletics Canada. “It was wild for sure. Highs and lows to the extremes.”
All these years later, Bailey hopes people will look back at the highs of Atlanta even when reliving the lows while watching Richard Jewell at the local movie theatre.
“The Olympic Games should never be about politics — about somebody with some sort of agenda,” Bailey says. “The Olympic Games are all about sports and celebrating the greatest athletes on the planet.”
Hiroshima marked the 74th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city with its mayor renewing calls for eliminating such weapons and demanding Japan’s government do more.
Mayor Kazumi Matsui raised concerns in his peace address Tuesday about the rise of self-centred politics in the world and urged leaders to steadily work toward achieving a world without atomic weapons.
“Around the world today, we see self-centred nationalism in ascendance, tensions heightened by international exclusivity and rivalry, with nuclear disarmament at a standstill,” Matsui said in his peace declaration.
He urged the younger generations never to dismiss the atomic bombings and the Second World War as mere events of history, but think of them as their own, while calling on the world leaders to come visit Japan’s two nuclear-bombed cities to learn what happened.
Matsui also demanded Japan’s government represent the wills of atomic bombing survivors and sign a United Nations nuclear weapons ban treaty.
The U.S. attack on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945 killed 140,000 people. The bomb dropped three days later on Nagasaki killed another 70,000 before Japan’s surrender ended the Second World War.
Japan, which hosts 50,000 American troops and is protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella, has not signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, an inaction atomic bombing survivors and pacifist groups protest as insincere.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledged widening differences between nuclear and non-nuclear states.
“Japan is committed to serve as a bridge between nuclear and non-nuclear states and lead the international effort, while patiently trying to convince them to co-operate and have a dialogue,” Abe said in his address at the Hiroshima anniversary ceremony. He vowed to maintain Japan’s pacifist and nuclear nuclear-free principles, but did not promise signing the treaty.
Survivors, their relatives and other participants marked the 8:15 a.m. blast with a minute of silence.
The ceremony came hours after North Korea launched projectiles into the sea. Its recent weapons tests follow a stalemate in negotiations over its nuclear weapons.
Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what’s happening around some of the day’s most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.
Initial suspicions that the Sri Lankan bombings had “links with ISIS” have now been backed up by “some of the evidence,” according to the prime minister.
Working from home is great, right? Well, you might want to think twice before ditching the daily commute.
Authorities had initially identified a homegrown extremist group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath, as the prime suspects. But they now suggest that the plot had “international support” from a terrorist organization in India called Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, and perhaps the Islamic State.
“We can’t tell you immediately, definitively to whom they had links,” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told a news conference today. But initial suspicions “that there were links with ISIS,” have now been backed up by “some of the evidence.”
This undated image posted by the Islamic State group’s Aamaq news agency on April 23 purports to show Mohammed Zahran, a.k.a. Zahran Hashmi, centre, the man Sri Lanka says led the Easter bombings, as well as other attackers. (Aamaq news agency via AP)
Ruwan Wijewardene, the country’s defence minister, told parliament that the preliminary investigation has revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka, “was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch.”
More than 40 people are being held for questioning in connection with the Easter weekend blasts, but all of them are Sri Lankan citizens.
The Islamic State propaganda network frequently claims responsibility for violent acts and plots across the globe, often without furnishing any proof.
A BBC data analysis, published last month, showed that ISIS claimed to have been behind 3,670 attacks worldwide last year — an average of 11 each day — and a further 502 attacks over the first two months of 2019.
This March 24 photo shows smoke rising behind destroyed vehicles and damaged buildings in the village of Baghouz in Syria near the Iraqi border, a day after the Islamic State’s ‘caliphate’ was declared defeated by the U.S.-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). (Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images)
Most were in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, but the group also claims to have been active in Somalia, the Philippines, Egypt and Nigeria.
The group has also claimed responsibility for a number of smaller-scale incidents in France, Belgium and Australia. (An ISIS claim of responsibility for a shooting spree along Toronto’s Danforth Avenue last summer that left two dead and wounded 13 others has been rejected by police.)
The New York Times calculates that the Islamic State or its acolytes have carried out attacks in at least 25 different countries since 2017.
And in a wired world, support and encouragement doesn’t need to happen face-to-face.
Like this newsletter? Sign up and have it delivered by email.
You may also like our early-morning newsletter, the Morning Brief — start the day with the news you need in one quick and concise read. Sign up here.
Working from home is great, right? Well, you might want to think twice before ditching the daily commute, writes business correspondent Dianne Buckner.
If you’re sick and tired of commuting to work every day, you may think those who can do their jobs from home have it made.
What could be better than rolling out of bed and travelling only as far as your couch or kitchen to start the day’s labours? You can wear your PJs or favourite tracksuit as you type away on your computer and make calls, while enjoying all the comforts of home and maybe even spending more time with your children or pets.
But here’s a reality check: a growing body of data says isolation is a major cause of mental health trouble. And those who work at home on a full-time basis are most likely to experience loneliness and depression.
Companies can save money on office space by having staff work remotely, but it’s also triggering some unexpected mental health disability claims. (Altitude Visual/Shutterstock)
Tonight on The National, we’re looking at the disturbing link between mental health disability claims and working at home.
A lot of companies have been encouraging employees to telecommute for some time now, in part because it cuts down on the need for expensive office space. One recent study says that fully half of the Canadian workforce is now spending more than two days a week outside of the office, and one-fifth do it full-time.
During the course of researching this story, I heard from many employees who love it, too. They enjoy the freedom that comes with working remotely, and the sense of being valued when their employer trusts them to get their work done wherever they are.
But mental health issues are triggering costs for both businesses and their employees. Tonight’s report includes two Canadian telecommuters who reveal why the “luxury” of working from home was anything but.
– Dianne Buckner
Canada at work:
From how we think about our jobs, to where and when we do them, the stress of modern work is affecting Canadians in a lot of ways and across industries. This week, The National takes a look at the forces behind this stress and the ways we can avoid burning out. We examine new approaches to productivity and creativity, how we structure shift work, the mental health effects of telecommuting and what Canada can learn from other countries. More from this series:
The National will be delayed on the CBC television network tonight due to NHL playoff Game 7 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins. The show will air at its usual time, 9 p.m. ET, on News Network and online.
A few words on …
The high-point of Season 30.
Canadian journalist Lucas Meyer will be the voice of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on The Simpsons — all thanks to an impersonation video he put online for family and friends. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/TheMoment?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#TheMoment</a> <a href=”https://t.co/jgAV0Lchg2″>https://t.co/jgAV0Lchg2</a> <a href=”https://t.co/Qacg2FLGKB”>pic.twitter.com/Qacg2FLGKB</a>
“For Canada’s garbage, I want a boat prepared. They better pull that thing out or I will set sail to Canada and dump their garbage there … I will advise Canada that your garbage is on the way, prepare a grand reception, eat it if you want to.”
Memoir Prince was working on when he died to be released this fall (CNN)
Today in history
April 23, 2001: A curling community
The Post Office is gone. So too are the hardware and grocery stores, and even the town school. But one building still has the lights on in tiny Altamont, Man. — the curling rink. And even as the population has shrunk to just 70 people, throwing rocks remains a way of life.
There aren’t many people left in Altamont, Man., but the town curling club just may be the key to its survival. 6:33
Sign up here and have The National Today newsletter delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.
"Our role in Cuba is to advance in the negotiations, we are not aware of the actions taking place in Colombia nor do we have any involvement in them," chief ELN negotiator Pablo Beltran told Cuban state-run agency Prensa Latina on Monday.
The ELN had earlier in the day claimed responsibility for last week's car bomb attack against a police academy that killed 21 people as a legitimate act of war and urged Colombian President Ivan Duque to return to the negotiating table.
Duque has called for Cuba, which hosted negotiations with the ELN as it had done previously with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, to extradite the commanders in Havana, including top ELN leader Nicolas Rodriguez.
Police line up prior to a mass at a cathedral in honour of those killed in the bombing. Twenty-one people died and dozens were wounded. (Fernando Vergara/Associated Press)
The ELN commanders in Havana on Monday demanded that Cuba guarantee them safe passage back to Colombia if the talks end.
While Cuba condemned the attack, it said it would respect the protocols of the negotiations and was consulting with both parties and the guarantors of the talks.
The protocols provide security guarantees for guerrilla commanders to return to Colombia and prevent military attacks for an agreed period.
"They should carry out the terms agreed on rather than asking the impossible of Cuba," Beltran said.
Bruno Rodriguez, Cuba's foreign affairs minister, said in a tweet over the weekend that the country would never allow its territory to be used for the planning of terrorist acts.
Beltran accused Duque's government of delaying the talks for six months to weaken the ELN with a military offensive.
"Facing such a reality, there have been responses like that of last Thursday, but … we must continue to attempt together to end the conflict," Beltran said, adding that the negotiators would hand over all the agreements accorded so far as a departure point for future talks.
At least six people were killed, including two children, after a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle outside a district headquarters in Somalia's capital, authorities said Sunday.
Capt. Mohamed Hussein said the bomber tried to speed through a checkpoint but was stopped by security forces, prompting him to detonate the vehicle near the gate of Howlwadag district headquarters.
The three soldiers who stopped the truck were killed instantly and the three others killed were civilians, said the Mogadishu mayor's spokesman, Salah Hassan Omar.
A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle near a local government office in the capital after being stopped by security forces. (Farah Abdi Warsameh/Associated Press)
Fourteen people, including six children, need intensive care, said the Aamin Ambulance service. Among the wounded was deputy district commissioner Ibrah Hassan Matan.
Many victims were students at a nearby Islamic school. Officials warned there could be more casualties as the blast brought down nearby buildings including a mosque.
"I saw bodies strewn on the ground after the explosion before the ambulances and the paramedics reached the scene and the whole scene was very ugly," witness Halima Mohamed said.
The attacker "literally failed to achieve their goal of inflicting maximum casualties," police captain Hussein said, accusing the al-Qaeda-linked extremist group al-Shabaab of carrying out the attack.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the explosion, which shattered a period of calm in seaside Mogadishu. The Somalia-based al-Shabaab often targets the capital with bombings, including a truck bombing in October that left at least 512 people dead.
Somali troops are meant to take over the Horn of Africa nation's security in the coming years from an African Union force but concerns about their readiness remain high. The U.N. Security Council recently voted to delay the reduction of troops in the AU force from October to February and the target date to hand over security to Somali forces to December 2021.
An attack on a military patrol in northern Mali killed two civilians and wounded up to eight French soldiers on Sunday, Mali's defence ministry said.
The attack comes two days after Islamist militants killed at least six people during a raid on a military headquarters in central Mali, a country where French troops are helping combat jihadists across its vast desert reaches.
"I confirm that it was a car bomb that drove into a joint Barkhane/Malian army patrol," defence ministry spokesperson Boubacar Diallo said. Barkhane is the name of the nearly 4,000-strong French force stationed in its former colonies across the Sahel region.
About a dozen people were wounded in Sunday's attack, including four to eight French Barkhane troops, Diallo said.
France's army spokesman, Patrik Steiger, confirmed that civilians had been killed in an attack in Gao and the army was assessing the state of the 30-strong French patrol that came under attack.
Smoke rising from armoured vehicle
He said the explosion happened near three French vehicles.
Photos posted on social media showed an armoured vehicle on a sandy road surrounded by black smoke.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred a month before presidential elections scheduled for the end of July.
But violence by Islamist militants has proliferated in the sparsely populated Sahel in recent years, with groups linked to al-Qaeda and the group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) using central and northern Mali as a launchpad for attacks across the region.
Western powers have provided significant funding to a regional force made up of soldiers from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania combating the jihadists. But the so-called G5 force has been hobbled by delays disbursing the money and poor coordination between the five countries.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who last year complained that G5 was taking too long to set up, is due in Mauritania on Monday to discuss security in the region.
An advance team of Canadian peacekeepers arrived in Mali a week ago to lay the groundwork for a year-long mission. No Canadian forces were affected by Sunday's attack, the Canadian Armed Forces told CBC News.
A suicide bomber struck a voter registration centre in the Afghan capital on Sunday, killing at least 31 people in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group.
Public Health Ministry spokesman Wahid Majro said another 54 people were wounded in Sunday’s attack, updating an earlier toll. Gen. Daud Amin, the Kabul police chief, said the suicide bomber targeted civilians who had gathered to receive national identification cards.
The large explosion echoed across the city, shattering windows miles away from the attack site and damaging several nearby vehicles. Police blocked all roads to the blast site, with only ambulances allowed in. Local TV stations broadcast live footage of hundreds of distraught people gathered at nearby hospitals seeking word about loved ones.
An Afghan security forces mamber stands guard at the site of Sunday’s suicide bomb attack in Kabul.(Omar Sobhani/Reuters )
The group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility in a statement carried by its Aamaq news agency, saying it had targeted Shia “apostates.”
Afghanistan will hold parliamentary elections in October.
Last week, three police officers responsible for guarding voter registration centres in two Afghan provinces were killed by militants, according to authorities.
An Afghan man shows the ID paper of his relative outside a voter registration centre, which was attacked by a suicide bomber in Kabul. (Rahmat Gul/Associated Press)
Afghan security forces have struggled to prevent attacks by the Islamic State affiliate as well as the more firmly established Taliban since the U.S. and NATO concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014. Both groups regularly launch attacks, with the Taliban usually targeting the government and security forces, and IS targeting the country’s Shiite minority.
Both groups want to establish a harsh form of Islamic rule in Afghanistan, and are opposed to democratic elections.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, at least five people were killed when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in the northern Baghlan province. Zabihullah Shuja, spokesman for the provincial police chief, said four other people were wounded in Sunday’s blast in Puli Khomri, the capital of the province.
The Taliban routinely target security forces and government officials with roadside bombs, which often end up killing civilians.
In the northern Balkh province, a district police chief died of his wounds after being shot Saturday during a gunbattle with insurgents, according to Sher Jan Durrani, spokesman for the provincial police chief. He said around a dozen insurgents were also killed in the battle, which is still underway.
Durrani identified the slain commander as Halim Khanjar, police chief for the Char Bolak district.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing.