The death toll from an explosion outside a school in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul has risen to 58, with doctors struggling to provide medical care to at least 150 injured. The bombing on Saturday evening shook the city’s Shi’ite Muslim neighborhood of Dasht-e-Barchi. The community, a religious minority in Afghanistan, has been targeted in the past by so-called Islamic State militants. An eyewitness told Reuters all but seven or eight of the victims were schoolgirls going home after finishing studies.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday blamed the attack on Taliban insurgents but a spokesman for the Taliban denied involvement, saying the group condemns any attacks on Afghan civilians.
Families of the victims blamed the Afghan government and Western powers for failing to end violence and the ongoing war.
Bodies were still being collected from morgues as the first burials were conducted 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.
“The entire night we carried bodies of young girls and boys to a graveyard and prayed for everyone wounded in the attack,” said Mohammed Reza Ali. He has been helping families of the victims at a private hospital.
Why not just kill all of us to put an end to this war?” he said.
The United Nations Secretary-General strongly condemned the “horrific” attack and expressed his sympathies to the victims’ families, along with the government and people of Afghanistan. “Those responsible for this heinous crime must be held accountable,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
“The Secretary-General underlines the urgency of ending the violence in Afghanistan and achieving a peaceful settlement of the conflict.” The violence comes a week after remaining US and NATO troops began exiting Afghanistan, with a mission to complete the drawdown by 11 September, which will mark the end of America’s longest war. But the foreign troop withdrawal has led to a surge in fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban insurgents, with both sides trying to retain control over strategic centers.
Washington’s top diplomat in Afghanistan, Ross Wilson, condemned the attack in a post on Twitter: “With scores murdered, this unforgivable attack on children is an assault on Afghanistan’s future, which cannot stand.”
Neighbouring Pakistan, which has considerable influence over the Taliban and pushes them to restart peace talks and agrees to a ceasefire, also condemned the attack.