At least six people, including a number of children have been killed in a terrorist attack at a boys school in Kabul on Tuesday, Taliban police said. A separate attack on an education centre nearby with a hand grenade caused further casualties. At least 24 people were injured in the attacks.
There are fears the death toll could rise further. The Afghan Journalists Association said a local TV journalist had been detained attempting to report from the area. Some activists claimed the death toll was higher than 20.
The school is in the Dasht e Barchi area in the west of the city, a Hazara majority area. The Hazara are a Shiite minority group in Afghanistan that has often been attacked by ISIS, Al Qaeda and other extremist groups.
A local hospital said at least six people had been killed. The school targeted was reportedly the Abdul Rahim Shaheed High School.
“Three blasts have taken place … in a high school, there are some casualties to our Shia people,” said Khalid Zadran, a spokesman for Taliban forces in Kabul.
“These are preliminary figures. We are at the site and waiting for more details,” he said.
Mr Zadran said a third blast had occurred at an English language centre in the same area, but did not specify whether it was caused by an explosive.
Tuesday's blasts occurred as students were coming out of their morning classes at the school, a witness told AFP.
Grisly images posted on social media networks showed several bodies lying at the gate and compound of the school.
Images showed patches of blood, burnt books and school bags scattered at the premises. Taliban fighters were seen cordoning off the area.
Humanitarian group Save the Children's Afghanistan Country Director Chris Nyamandi condemned the blast.
“Save the Children is outraged and strongly condemns the reported attack on a high school today in Kabul. We're deeply saddened about reports that children have been injured, and possibly killed, in the blasts,” he said in a statement.
In May last year, at least 85 people, mostly children, were killed in a bombing at the Sayed Al Shuhada school in the same area. ISIS-linked groups in the country have killed hundreds of Afghans from different communities in recent years, but have singled out the Shiite Hazara minority, killing dozens in attacks targeting mosques and schools.
Other attacks, including a suicide bombing targeting refugees trying to flee the country in August last year, which killed around 170 Afghan civilians and 13 US soldiers, have also been claimed by ISIS-K, the local affiliate of ISIS. Victims are not only minorities but anyone who does not subscribe to the group's worldview.
Kabul was rocked by sectarian violence in the early 1990s following the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989, who were ousted from the country after an almost decade-long war in support of an allied Communist government.
Warlords battled for control of towns and cities and in west Kabul, Hazara and ethnic Pashtun militias fought street battles and frequently attacked civilians.
But despite high-profile attacks that appear to have a sectarian motive, such as the school bombing last May, similar intercommunal violence has not yet erupted in the capital and the Taliban has pledged to protect the Shiite minority, claiming their forces are capable of stemming a wave of ISIS activity in the country.
Attacks have also targeted Taliban fighters, but a growing list of bombings in Hazara neighbourhoods could heighten fears that minorities will not be protected by the Taliban.
In May 2020, an attack on a maternity ward in the same neighbourhood shocked the world, killing 24 people. The attack was also claimed by ISIS-K and led to Medecins Sans Frontieres, the international health NGO, withdrawing from the country.
Agencies contributed to this report