KABUL: The death toll from a bomb attack outside a school in the Afghan capital Kabul has risen to 68 with doctors struggling to care for 165 injured victims and families searching desperately for missing children.
Explosions on Saturday evening shook the neighbourhood of Dasht-e-Barchi, home to a large community of the Hazara minority which has been targeted in the past by Islamic State.
A car bomb was detonated in front of the Sayed Al-Shuhada school and two more bombs exploded when students rushed out in panic. Officials said most of those killed were schoolgirls. Some families were still searching hospitals for their children. On Sunday, civilians and policemen collected books and school bags strewn across a blood-stained road now busy with shoppers ahead of celebrations for Eid al-Fitr next week.
President Ashraf Ghani blamed Taliban insurgents but a spokesman for the group denied involvement and condemned any attacks on Afghan civilians. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also condemned the attack and expressed his deepest sympathies to the victims’ families and to the Afghan government and people.
Families of the victims blamed the government and Western powers for failing to put an end to violence and the ongoing war. Bodies were still being collected from morgues as the first burials were conducted in the west of the city. Some families were still searching for missing relatives on Sunday, gathering outside hospitals to read names posted on the walls, and checking morgues.
Security was intensified across Kabul after the attack but authorities said they would not be able to provide security to all schools, mosques and other public places. Conflict is raging in Afghanistan, with security forces in daily combat with the Taliban.
Although the United States did not meet a May 1 withdrawal deadline agreed in talks with the Taliban last year, its military pull-out has begun, with President Joe Biden announcing that all troops will be gone by Sept. 11.
The foreign troop withdrawal has led to a surge in fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban insurgents. Critics of the decision say the militants will make a grab for power and civilians live in fear of being subjected once more to brutal and oppressive Taliban rule.
China’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Wang Yu, said the abrupt US announcement of a complete withdrawal of forces had led to a succession of attacks throughout the country. “China calls on foreign troops in Afghanistan to take into full account the security of people in the country and the region, pull out in a responsible manner and avoid inflicting more turmoil and suffering on the Afghan people,” he said.
Condemning the killing of civilians, India’s foreign ministry said the death of more than 50 young girls made this an attack on the future of Afghanistan. “The perpetrators clearly seek to destroy the painstaking and hard-won achievements that the Afghans have put in place over the last two decades,” a statement said.