By Leah Cerilli
A suicide bombing at a voter registration center in Kabul, Afghanistan killed at least 57 people and injured at least 119 more on Sunday, April 22. The explosion occurred around 10 a.m. local time. 8 children, 25 men, and 22 women were among the dead, while two bodies were unidentifiable according to the Afghan Health Ministry.
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish stated the bomber was on foot when he detonated explosives at the gate of the building in the Dashte Barchi neighborhood. Afghan authorities were distributing identity cards as part of a government initiative to register more people to vote.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombing via its Amaq news agency, claiming its “martyrdom brother” targeted “Shiite apostates”.
Afghanistan’s parliamentary and district council elections are set to take place in October, with voter registration opening on April 14.
ISIS also claimed responsibility for the March 21 shrine bombing in Kabul, which killed 29 people and injured 52.
The attack has increased already present concerns over voter turnout in the long-delayed parliamentary elections. Public interest in election participation has decreased due to successive fraudulent elections and safety threats at polling stations from ISIS as well as the Taliban.
This is not the first time Afghanistan has experienced violence towards voters since registration opened almost two weeks ago. Five attacks related to election voting have occurred thus far.
A second bombing on April 22 outside another voting registration center in Baghlan Province, killing six people and wounding at least five. Unknown armed men attacked a registration center in Badghis Province on April 20, killing a police officer guarding the center. Two police officers guarding a registration center in Jalalabad came under fire and died on April 19. Armed Taliban members kidnapped three voter registration employees and two policemen on April 18 in Ghor Province.
Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections have been delayed by three years thus far as coalition government leaders debated fraud prevention measures. The coalition declared previously issued voter identification cards invalid, asking citizens to return to polling centers with their national identification cards in order to register to vote. Only an estimated 190,000 people out of around 14 million eligible voters have registered since April 14. Elections are likely to be delayed again if registration is not high enough.
Many villages under Taliban control have been unable to open their registration centers. Kunduz Province, possessing 55 registration centers, has only been able to open 20 due to Taliban presence. Around 1,000 registration centers are completely out of the government’s control, while 2,000 more are located in areas with a medium to high risk of violence. There is an estimated 7,355 registration centers throughout Afghanistan.