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Kabul Bombing Leaves At Least 80 Dead

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're turning now to news from Kabul, Afghanistan, where suicide bombers attacked demonstrators in a public square this morning, killing more than 80 people and injuring more than 200. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for this.

We're joined now by Jennifer Glasse who's in Kabul. Jennifer, thank you so much for speaking with us.

JENNIFER GLASSE, BYLINE: It's a pleasure being on air.

MARTIN: Can you tell us any more about the circumstances this morning? What happened? How many people were involved?

GLASSE: Well, there were thousands of people demonstrating in Kabul. The streets have been blocked off by the government to prevent the demonstration from getting to the presidential palace, and so the demonstrators had been setting up tents in the middle of this street when the suicide bombers detonated, killing dozens of people.

And because the roads were closed because of the demonstration, it was very difficult for people to get to the hospitals. After the explosions went off, there were bodies scattered down the street. It was a very grim sight.

MARTIN: How do we know that the Islamic State was responsible?

GLASSE: They claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that they targeted mainly the Shia Hazaras. The Islamic State believed that the Shia don't rate as people. Now, this is the first time the Islamic State has made any kind of attack in an urban area in Afghanistan. They've basically been limited to rural eastern Afghanistan where they've done some nasty things in villages and terrorized villagers in small villages in Nangarhar province. But this is the first time they've attacked in the Afghan capital.

MARTIN: Did they give some reason why they targeted this particular group of people? You mentioned that they were members of the Hazara minority. Was there some reason given for this?

GLASSE: Well, the Islamic State has been resurgent in recent weeks and President Ghani told his military to launch an offensive, which they did this week against the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan. So that may be what precipitated this attack - the fact that the Hazaras were all together and in one place, maybe made it an attractive target. The government says it didn't have any intelligence that the - it would be targeted by Islamic State.

And it does mark the very first time that the Islamic State has been able to strike in central Kabul. These were men dressed in burkas who detonated themselves in this crowd. And I think it's going to make many Afghans wonder if there are more Islamic State bombers who have gotten past the security services and maybe could attack again.

MARTIN: That was Jennifer Glasse reporting from Kabul. Jennifer, thank you so much for speaking with us.

GLASSE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.