Kabul bombing: at least 30 killed in explosions at girls' school

Witnesses say blasts went off as pupils were leaving for the day

An injured woman is taken to a hospital after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan on May 8, 2021. Reuters
An injured woman is taken to a hospital after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan on May 8, 2021. Reuters

Explosions at a girls' school in Kabul on Saturday killed at least 30 people and injured about 50, the Afghan Interior Ministry said.

A witness said there were three explosions near the Sayedul Shuhada School in the Dasht-e-Barchi area of the Afghan capital as pupils were leaving for the day.

“I was near the area when I heard three large booms and I panicked and ran. But within seconds we realised that the school was the target,” Najeebullah, 24, told The National. Like many Afghans, he goes by one name.

“A lot of houses and shops in the area were also damaged. Lots of broken windows and doors,” he said.

“I saw so many bodies being rushed out of the school. People were carrying injured girls on motorbikes and cars and rushing them to the hospitals. A lot of people were crying.”

It was not clear what caused the explosions. The Taliban issued a statement denying responsibility.

ISIS, who have a small but growing presence in the country, did not immediately issue a statement.

The number of dead and injured was expected to rise as hospitals in the area said they were still receiving victims of the explosions.

The Health Ministry said 46 people were injured, but the number of dead was uncertain.

“Ambulance drivers were also among those injured when frustrated civilians vented their anger at health care workers who were there to collect the injured and those killed,” said Osman Tahiri, a deputy spokesman at the ministry.

Three of the nearest hospitals contacted by The National confirmed at least 50 injuries and five deaths, but casualty tolls mounted rapidly.

“Bodies have started arriving, and we have received five patients so far. But the people are still bringing in more,” said Farkhunda Karim, a medical staff at Amiri Barchi Hospital. “It seems like a big attack."

Mohammad Ali Jinnah Hospital confirmed receiving 20 injured, while the Imam Zaman Hospital said they had 11 injured and two deaths.

“All of them are girls between 16-18 years old,” said Khatima Safdari, a staff member at Imam Zaman.

Najeebullah, who lives in Dasht-e-Barchi, said the timing of the blasts suggested that it targeted girls at the school.

“The school is used for the boys in the mornings and the girls in grade 10 to 12 [ages 16 to 18] use it in the afternoon,” he said.

There have been previous attacks on students in this neighbourhood, which is populated predominantly by the Shiite Hazara minority that is often persecuted by insurgent groups.

About 24 people were killed when a suicide bomber detonated his vest outside a private learning centre in the neighbourhood in October.

In August 2018, a similar attack inside the classroom of a learning centre killed 34 students.

Both attacks were claimed by the ISIS branch in Afghanistan.

While no insurgent group claimed responsibility for Saturday’s blasts, ISIS has often targeted Afghanistan’s minority groups.

“It is too early to say who are behind the attacks but if you look at the last attacks on us, particularly in Barchi, Daesh has always been the culprit,” Najeebullah said, referring to the group by its Arabic name.

“I don’t know what crime these innocent girls committed for them to suffer this fate. Why would they target schoolgirls?" he said. "What did they ever do them?”

Gallery: ongoing violence in Afghanistan

Updated: May 9, 2021 09:01 AM

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