Kabul suicide blast kills 19, mostly girls

KABUL (Agencies): A suicide bomb attack on a classroom of hundreds of people preparing for exams in the Afghan capital on Friday killed at least 19 people, with most of the casualties girls, police and a witness said.
The blast ripped through Kaaj Higher Educational Center, which coaches mainly adult men and women ahead of university entrance tests. “We were around 600 in the class. But most of the casualties are among the girls,” Akbar, a student who was wounded in the attack, told AFP from a nearby hospital. The attack happened in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood of western Kabul, a predominantly Shiite Muslim area home to the minority Hazara community, the target of some of Afghanistan’s most deadly attacks. “Students were preparing for an exam when a suicide bomber struck at this educational centre. Unfortunately, 19 people have been martyred and 27 others wounded,” Kabul police spokesman Khalid Zadran said.
Families rushed to area hospitals, where ambulances were arriving with victims and lists of those confirmed dead and wounded were posted on the walls. “We didn’t find her here,” a distressed woman looking for her sister at one of the hospitals told AFP. “She was 19 years old. We are calling her but she’s not responding.”
At at least one hospital, the Taliban forced families of victims to leave the site, fearing that there could be a follow-up attack on the crowd. Videos posted online and photos published by local media showed bloodied victims being carried away from the scene.
“Security teams have reached the site, the nature of the attack and the details of the casualties will be released later,” Abdul Nafy Takor, the interior ministry’s spokesman, earlier tweeted. “Attacking civilian targets proves the enemy’s inhuman cruelty and lack of moral standards.”
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also condemned the attack in a series of tweets later in the day calling it “sheer barbarism”. He extended Pakistan’s “deepest condolences and most sincere sympathies to the bereaved families and people of Afghanistan”.
Shehbaz said that terrorism continued to threaten not just Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also the world. “The international community should not let its guard down. Strengthening global cooperation against changing threat matrix of terrorism is the need of the hour,” he added.
In a statement issued later, the Foreign Office said Pakistan condemned in the strongest terms, the “dastardly terrorist attack” on an educational institution in Dasht-e-Barchi, Kabul, today, in which “precious innocent lives were lost and many were injured”. “The government and people of Pakistan extend their profound and heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and pray for early recovery of the injured,” it added. “We stand in complete solidarity with our Afghan brethren in the fight against the scourge of terrorism.”
The blast was condemned by the Islamic Emirate, the United States, Norway, Iran, Afghan political leaders and foreign diplomatic missions. The Islamic Emirate’s spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in a tweet condemned the attack and called it “great horror.”
Former chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), Abdullah Abdullah, condemned the attack, saying those responsible for the blast are the enemies of peace and development in the country. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) tweeted it “condemns the outrage, extending its deep condolences to all those in mourning.” The US Charge d’Affaires Karen Decker said on Twitter: “The US strongly condemns today’s attack on the Kaaj Higher Educational Center. Targeting a room full of students taking exams is shameful; all students should be able to pursue an education in peace & without fear.” No one has yet to claim responsibility for the blast.