Two blasts were heard as Afghanistan’s two rival leaders, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, held parallel presidential inaugurations in Kabul on Monday.
In television footage shared by news agency ANI, hundreds of people can be seen assembled inside the presidential palace complex to witness the swearing-in ceremony of Ghani, who came dressed in traditional Afghan clothing and white turban. Minutes earlier, in another corner of the presidential palace compound, a suit-clad had Abdullah inaugurated himself as president.
— ANI (@ANI) March 9, 2020
Ghani is seen holding his ground and continuing with his speech even as people at the event flee from the venue. “I have no bulletproof vest on, only my shirt, I will stay even if I have to sacrifice my head,” Ghani told the remaining crowd, as sirens sounded overhead.
The perpetrators of the blast were not immediately known but the development increased worries that the heightening split in Afghanistan’s leadership may lead to violence, either internally or with Taliban insurgents.
The swearing-in of the two leaders comes at a time when the Taliban is on the rise in the country after signing a peace accord with the US.
In a sign of international support for Ghani, his ceremony was attended by Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, Gen. Austin S Miller, the head of US forces in Afghanistan, as well as a number of foreign dignitaries including the US Embassy’s charge d’affaires and Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary General’s personal representative to Afghanistan.
At Abdullah’s inauguration, among those present were so-called “jihadi” commanders, who were among those who allied with the US-led coalition to topple the Taliban in 2001, AP reported. Those commanders also participated in the brutal civil war of the 1990s, raising fears that the divisions among Afghan leaders could lead to violence.
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