Taliban deny govt claim as toll from attack on school rises to 50

Published May 10, 2021
KABUL: Students bow their heads as they stand on Sunday near the backpacks and books left behind by their colleagues who died in multiple blasts outside a girls’ school on the outskirts of the Afghan capital.—AFP
KABUL: Students bow their heads as they stand on Sunday near the backpacks and books left behind by their colleagues who died in multiple blasts outside a girls’ school on the outskirts of the Afghan capital.—AFP

KABUL: Dozens of young girls were buried on Sunday at a desolate hilltop cemetery in Kabul, a day after a secondary school was targeted in the bloodiest attack in Afghanistan in over a year.

A series of blasts outside the school during a peak holiday shopping period killed more than 50 people, mostly female students, and wounded more than 100 in Dasht-i-Barchi, a west Kabul suburb populated mostly by Hazara Shias.

The government blamed the Taliban for the carnage, but the insurgents denied responsibility and issued a statement saying the nation needed to “safeguard and look after educational centres and institutions”.

The dead buried at a hilltop cemetery

Saturday’s blasts came as the United States military continues to withdraw its last 2,500 troops from the violence-wracked country des­pite faltering peace efforts between the Taliban and Afghan government to end a decades-long war.

Interior Ministry spokesman Tareq Arian told reporters that a car bomb detonated in front of the Sayed Al-Shuhada girls school on Saturday, and when the students rushed out in panic, two more devices exploded.

Residents were shopping ahead of this week’s Eidul Fitr when the blasts occurred.

On Sunday, relatives buried the dead at a hilltop site known as “Martyrs cemetery”, where victims of attacks against the Hazara community are laid to rest.

Bodies in wooden coffins were lowered into graves one by one by mourners still in a state of shock and fear, a photographer said.

“I rushed to the scene (after the blasts) and found myself in the middle of bodies, their hands and heads cut off and bones smashed,” said Mohammad Taqi, a resident of Dasht-i-Barchi, whose two daughters were students at the school but had escaped the attack.

“All of them were girls. Their bodies piled on top of each other.”

Last week the school’s students had protested about a lack of teachers and study materials, said Mirza Hussain, a local resident. “But what they got (in return) was a massacre.”

Books and school bags belonging to the victims still lay scattered at the site of the attack.

Afghan officials including Presi­dent Ashraf Ghani blamed the Taliban. “This savage group does not have the power to confront security forces on the battlefield, and instead targets with brutality and barbarism public facilities and the girls’ school,” Ghani said in a statement.

The Taliban denied involvement, and insist they have not carried out attacks in Kabul since February last year, when they signed a deal with Washington that paved the way for peace talks and withdrawal of the remaining US troops.

But the group has clashed daily with Afghan forces in the rugged countryside even as the US military reduces its presence.

Pope Francis said Saturday’s attack was “an inhumane action”, while Iran blamed the militant Islamic State (IS) group.

“By targeting children amid Ramazan, Daesh again exhibited its inhumanity and abject contempt for Islam and Muslims,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said, calling IS by its Arabic acronym.

Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2021

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