Policemen keep watch near the side of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 7, 2019.
Policemen keep watch near the side of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 7, 2019.

ISLAMABAD - Unidentified attackers fired mortars at a gathering in the Afghan capital, Kabul, attended by several presidential candidates, former president Hamid Karzai, and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

Abdullah was on stage addressing the crowd Thursday when the attack started. He called it a “crime.” Hundreds of members of the Hizb e Wahdat e Islami party had gathered for the 24th anniversary of the death of their leader, Abdul Ali Mazari.

At least one person was killed and 16 wounded according to the Afghan ministry of public health. Presidential candidate Hanif Atmar said on his Facebook page that eight of his guards were wounded. Another candidate, Abdul Latif Pedram, was also wounded, according to local Afghan channel Tolo news.

Police have arrested a man who was giving the coordinates of the venue from a nearby house to those who fired the mortars, according to Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the Afghan ministry of interior.

The organizers initially tried to keep the crowd calm, but later told them to leave.

“Our gathering is under attack and mortar shells are landing all over,” Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, Abdullah’s deputy and a member of Hizb e Wahdat, said to the people.

Violence in Afghanistan continues unabated even as Taliban representatives are engaged in talks with a team from the United States in Qatar’s capital, Doha.

Thursday’s attack comes a day after another attack in Jalalabad killed 16 workers of a construction company along with the five bombers and a week after an attack on an important military base in Helmand in which Taliban fighters killed 25 Afghan soldiers and took several others hostage.

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