KABUL — Thousands of angry Afghans protested on Friday over the lack of security in Kabul at the site of a deadly truck bombing, as government troops fired their guns in the air and shot tear gas in attempt to disperse the crowd.
Police opened fire on protesters who attempted to march on the presidential palace some three blocks away and there were unconfirmed reports of injuries. Pools of blood were visible on the ground.
Enraged over the massive loss of life when an immense explosion erupted in the heart of the capital’s supposedly secure diplomatic quarter, people called for the execution of President Ashfraf Ghani, even burning him in effigy.
“Death to Ghani,” shouted some, while others called for killing the groups suspected of being behind the attack. “Hang the Taliban, Hang the Haqqani!” they shouted, referring to prisoners from these rebel groups currently in custody.
Demonstrators carried banners emblazoned with gruesome images of Wednesday’s carnage, when a truck bomb went off, killing at least 80 people and wounded nearly 500 more. It was the latest in a series of high-profile assaults on the once-secure capital that have claimed dozens of lives in past months.
The latest attack took place just as the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan was beginning and is one of the worst ever experienced by the capital.
“We blame the government of Pakistan and the USA. They are the ones supporting these terrorists,” said Yama Ariaye, 29, at the protest.
After being stopped from marching on the palace, protesters set up tents and vowed to remain in place until the president resigns.
After initial volleys of tear gas and stones, police and the crowd, which included doctors, lawyers, lawmakers and students, appear to have reached an understanding and calmed the situation.
There are already 8,000 U.S. troops supporting the Afghan government against rebels from the Taliban and the Islamic State, but U.S. military leaders say several thousand more are required to stabilize the situation.
The Ghani government, distracted by internal conflicts, has struggled to fend off an aggressive push by Taliban insurgents in recent months, as well as a number of assaults claimed by the Islamic State.
“We want these people punished for their brutality,” said Noor Ahmed, a 41-year-old lawyer at the protest. “They should hang the Taliban, use force, whatever it takes to stop this.”