Kabul: At least 55 people were killed and more than 150 injured in car bomb and mortar explosions outside a school in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul on Saturday, mostly female students, officials said, in an attack on the president. Ashraf Ghani accused the Taliban rebels.
A senior security official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that most of the casualties were students from the Syed ul Shuhada school, and many were badly injured in the hospital.
Footage on the TV channel TolnoNews featured chaotic scenes, with books and school bags scattered on the blood-soaked street, and residents rushing to help the victims.
“It was a car bomb blast that occurred in front of the school entrance,” an eyewitness told Reuters. He said that seven or eight schoolgirls, out of all the victims, were on their way home after finishing their studies.
At Saeed ul Shuhada High School, girls and boys study in three shifts, the second of which is for female students, Education Ministry spokesman Najiba Arian told Reuters. The injured were mostly female students, she said.
A spokesman for the interior ministry, Tariq Arian, said the death toll was at least 30, with 52 injured.
At a nearby hospital, staff wheeled the injured students, while dozens of distressed relatives searched for their sons and daughters, according to a Reuters witness.
“I don’t know which country we are in … We want peace and security,” a relative of one of the victims told Reuters.
Kabul has been on high alert since Washington announced plans to take out all US troops on September 11 last month, with Afghan officials saying the Taliban have intensified attacks across the country following the announcement.
No group claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied involvement of the group and condemned the incident.
Although Ghani blamed the Taliban, Saturday’s blasts were in a heavily Shi’ite Muslim neighborhood that has faced brutal attacks by Islamic State militants over the years, including a maternity ward nearly a year ago.
Ghani said: “The Taliban, by increasing their illegitimate war and violence, have once again shown that they are not only reluctant to resolve the current crisis peacefully and fundamentally, but are complicating the situation.”
Washington’s top diplomat in Afghanistan, Ross Wilson, condemned the attack in a post on Twitter: “With the killing of scores, this unforgivable attack on children is an attack on the future of Afghanistan, which cannot be tolerated.”
The Taliban and the United States signed an agreement last year to end the 20-year war, which began with the US and allied forces, who launched Al Qaeda in the United States on September 11, 2001, whose leader Osama Invaded Afghanistan after it was attacked by bin Laden. The Taliban was being sheltered by the government.
Under the agreement, Washington was supposed to take out troops for the group to guarantee Taliban security and to begin peace talks with the Afghan government. The talks started last year but have since stalled.
Taliban attacks on foreign forces have stalled to a large extent, but they continue to target government forces. Several journalists, activists and academics have also been killed in alleged attacks on the Taliban, who deny involvement.
Neighboring Pakistan, which has considerable influence on the Taliban and is insisting on restarting peace talks and agreeing to a ceasefire, also condemned the attack.
Last month, Washington said it was withdrawing the military’s withdrawal deadline from May 1 to September 11, which the Taliban warned that the agreement could have consequences.