Three bomb explosions occurred near a school in a majority Shitte district of west Kabul on Saturday, killing at least 40 students between the age of 11 and 15 and wounding dozens of others. The Taliban condemned the attack and denied any responsibility.
The blasts hit the Sayeda Shuhuda School in the Dasht-a-Barchi area of west Kabul, an area populated largely by the Shitte Hazara community. The residents said that they heard three blasts as the students were leaving the school and returning to their homes to break their Ramadan fast. Sayed Shahuda is a joint school for both boys and girls who study in three shifts, the second of which is for female students. Saturday’s attacks specifically targeted the female students.
Images from the site of the attack show bloodied books and backpacks lying across streets as smoke billows from the neighbourhood. The killed and wounded students have been moved to hospitals. The death toll, initially 25, now stands at 40 and is expected to rise further.
Dasht-a-Barchi area has been targeted by Sunni extremists in the past, but no group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani blamed the Taliban, but the insurgent group denied any responsibility, and instead blamed the Islamic State, which has been operating in Afghanistan for several years now. The Islamic State has repeatedly targeted the Shia Hazara community in schools, gyms, parks and other areas with no military links.
The attack, apparently designed for maximum carnage, betokens the rise of sectarian violence in the war-wrecked country as the NATO and U.S. forces prepare to withdraw. An attack similar to Saturday’s took place in a maternity home in Dasht-a-Barchi last year, killing newly born babies, mothers and several other pregnant women. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but the United States blamed the Islamic State.
The Afghan capital has witnessed a campaign of assassinations where activists, journalists and social leaders have been murdered in broad daylight. The wave of killings has pushed many into exile. Kabul has been on high alert for several months following the repeated assaults.
An EU mission in Afghanistan condemned Saturday’s attack as “a despicable attack of terrorism.” A UN mission expressed “deep revulsion” following the incident. “Targeting primarily students in a girls’ school makes this an attack on the future of Afghanistan. On young people determined to improve their country,” the EU said in a statement on Twitter
The fears of Afghanistan’s future have intensified after US President Joe Biden announced plans to withdraw all US troops by September 11, exactly 20 years after the 9/11 attacks that plunged the country into chaos. The departure of the final US forces on the ground began a few days ago.