A bomb strapped to a rickshaw detonated on Friday 18 December 2020, in the eastern province of Ghazni. The blast killed 15 children and injured another 20 people. The reason for the explosion is still unknown, with two converging accounts of the event emerging. One story, popularized by a spokesperson for the Ghazni provincial governor (associated press), claims that a bomb, strapped to the bottom of a rickshaw, detonated as a man entered the village acting as a merchant. This account believes the bomb to be a purposeful and targeted attack that may involve more casualties than previously thought. Wahidulah Jumazada, also speaking for the Ghazni government, told the press that an investigation is now underway to illuminate why the children were targeted. A police spokesperson seemingly takes this view, explicitly accusing the Taliban of the attack. Yet, another side, advanced by the Taliban, is that a piece of unexploded ordnance was collected by children and brought to the merchant where it then, unfortunately, detonated. Accompanying this accidental version was a lower death count (12). It is unlikely that any more information will emerge to confirm either account as the area where the explosion occurred is under Taliban control, making it off-limits for journalists.
However, the existence of frequent, unexplained explosions casts an air of suspicion over Friday’s events. Around the country, journalists, human rights workers, and activists have been killed in various accidents while performing everyday activities. Earlier in November 2020, for example, 34-year-old journalist, Elyas Dayee, was killed when a bomb detonated as he drove to work in Lashkar, Gah. The UN and Afghanistan’s human rights commission both document sharp rises in these kinds of attacks this year. These deaths undermine the already precarious support for the central government, who is currently negotiating with the Taliban. These negotiations are meant to finalize a peace deal that would put an end to decades of violence. This turn to diplomacy comes after the move to withdrawal U.S. and NATO troops from the country, which would see a reduction of over 2,000 troops within the next month.
Friday’s deadly attack points to the need to reduce levels of violence across the country rapidly. A lack of war, by its general definition, does not necessitate an absence of violence. Pointed killings, targeting journalists, advocates, and innocent children are cause for significant concern. The attempt to cover these heinous crimes as “accidents” demonstrates a blatant disregard for peace and humanity. Perhaps more importantly, they signify a group that desires an Afghan population immersed in fear. It suggests that they may not be prepared for upholding their promise for peace, which should ignite an immediate international outcry and response.
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