KABUL, Afghanistan – Mourning families buried their dead on Sunday following a terrible bombing of a girls’ school in the Afghan capital that killed 50 people, many of whom were students aged 11 to 15 .
The number of injured in Saturday’s attack rose to more than 100, Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said. In the western district of Dasht-e-Barchi, families have buried their dead amid angry recriminations against a government that they say has failed to protect them from repeated attacks in the predominantly Shia Muslim quarter.
“The government is reacting after the incident, it is not doing anything before the incident,” said Mohammad Baqir, Alizada, 41, who had gathered to bury his niece, Latifa, a grade 11 student at the school Syed Al-Shahda.
Three explosions outside the school entrance struck as the students left for the day, Arian said. The explosions targeted the Hazaras of Afghanistan, who dominate the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, where the bombing took place. Most of the Hazaras are Shia Muslims. The Taliban have denied responsibility, condemning the attack and the many deaths.
The first explosion was from a vehicle full of explosives, followed by two more, Arian said, adding that the number of victims could rise further.
In the capital rocked by relentless shelling, Saturday’s attack was among the worst. Criticism has grown over the lack of security and growing fears of even greater violence as the United States and NATO complete their final military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
In the Vatican, in his traditional Sunday remarks to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis cited the bombing. “Let us pray for the victims of the terrorist attack in Kabul, an inhumane act that struck so many girls as they left school.” He said. The pontiff then added: “May God give peace to Afghanistan”.
Shiite minority neighborhood targeted
The Dasht-e-Barchi region has been hit by several incidents of violence targeting Shiite minorities and most often claimed by the Islamic State affiliate operating in the country. No one has yet claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attacks.
In the same neighborhood in 2018, a school bombing killed 34 people, most of them students. In September 2018, a wrestling club was attacked, killing 24 people, and in May 2020, a maternity hospital was brutally attacked, killing 24 people, including pregnant women and infants. And in October 2020, the Kawsar-e-Danish tutoring center was attacked, killing 30 people.
Most of the attacks were claimed by the Islamic State affiliate operating in Afghanistan.
The radical Sunni Muslim group has declared war on the Shiites of Afghanistan. Washington blamed ISIS for a vicious attack last year on a maternity hospital in the same region that killed pregnant women and newborn babies.
Soon after the bombing, angry crowds attacked ambulances and even beat health workers as they tried to evacuate the injured, Health Ministry spokesman Ghulam Dastigar Nazari said. . He implored residents to cooperate and allow ambulances free access to the site.
Interior Ministry spokesman Arian blamed the attack on the Taliban despite their denials.
Bloody backpacks and school books lay outside the Syed Al-Shahda school. In the morning, the boys attend classes in the large school grounds and in the afternoon, it is the girls’ turn.
Government criticized for lack of protection
Dasht-e-Barchi’s Hazara leaders gathered on Sunday to express their frustration at the government’s inability to protect the Hazaras ethnic group, deciding to create their own protective force among the Hazara community.
The force would be deployed outside schools, mosques and public facilities and would cooperate with government security forces. The intention is to complement local forces, said parliamentarian Ghulam Hussein Naseri.
The meeting participants decided that “there is no other way except for the people themselves to ensure their own safety alongside the security forces,” said Naseri, who added that the government should provide weapons to the local Hazaras.
Naseri said the Hazaras had been attacked in their schools, in their mosques and “it is their right to be upset. How many more families are losing their loved ones? How many more attacks against this minority have to happen in this part? of town before something happens is done? “
One of the students fleeing the school recalled the attack, the girls’ screams, the blood.
“I was with my classmate, we were leaving school, when suddenly an explosion occurred,” said Zahra, 15, whose arm was broken by a shrapnel.
“Ten minutes later there was another explosion and a few minutes later another explosion,” she said. “Everyone was screaming and there was blood everywhere, and I couldn’t see anything clearly.” Her friend is deceased.
Most of the dozens of wounded brought to the EMERGENCY hospital for war wounded in the Afghan capital, “almost all girls and young women aged 12 to 20,” said Marco Puntin, the program coordinator of the war. hospital in Afghanistan.
In a statement following the attack, the hospital, which has operated in Kabul since 2000, said the first three months of this year saw a 21% increase in war casualties.
Even though ISIS has been degraded in Afghanistan, according to the US government and officials, it has stepped up its attacks, especially against Shia Muslims and working women.
The attack comes days after the remaining 2,500 to 3,500 US troops officially began to leave the country. They will be released on September 11 at the latest. The pullout comes amid the resurgence of the Taliban, who control or dominate more than half of Afghanistan.
The senior US military officer said on Sunday that Afghan government forces face an uncertain future and possibly “possible bad results” against the Taliban insurgents as the withdrawal accelerates in the coming weeks.
Associated Press photographer Rahmat Gul and video journalist Ahmad Seir in Kabul, Afghanistan and Kathy Gannon in Islamabad, Pakistan and Frances D’Emilio contributed to this report.