At least 50 people have been killed and more than 100 others wounded in an explosion near a high school for girls in the Afghan capital, Kabul, Afghan officials said Sunday.
The hype surrounding the U.S. deal with the Taliban on the troop withdrawal was that it might open the way for a lasting cease-fire and a respite for civilians who are being killed in horrific numbers. But the reality as American troops depart is being driven home by massacres like the one on Saturday — there has been more chaos than accord, and more fear than hope.
A car bomb was detonated in front of the school on Saturday afternoon, and as students rushed out, two more bombs were set off, said Tariq Arian, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry. Ambulances raced across the city toward the site into the evening.
“We never thought they would target a school,” said Najiba Hasani, whose 16-year-old daughter Raisa was injured in the attack. Ms. Hasani, who is illiterate, said she had insisted that her daughter must get an education to create a better life for herself: “It’s her time to thrive, to have an easy life. Not like me.”
Raisa’s father, Bagher Ibrahimi, a laborer, said he ran several miles from his house to the school once he heard the explosion and then searched frantically among discarded books, bags and shoes. All those injured in the attack had by then been moved to a hospital, leaving behind a bloodied sidewalk and pieces of flesh hanging from the electricity wires, he said.
Mr. Ibrahimi eventually found Raisa drifting between unconsciousness and loud screaming, and took her to a clinic operated by Italy’s Emergency aid group in central Kabul. He said her condition has since stabilized.
Several eyewitnesses said the first explosion was caused by a minivan that blew up outside the school, followed by two smaller blasts in short succession about 10 minutes later, which injured people who had rushed to the scene to help the wounded. Staff at the Emergency hospital said the two follow-up blasts appeared to have been caused by improvised explosive devices.
Saturday’s attack is likely to intensify fears in Afghanistan that the country will slip into further violence and perhaps a sectarian civil war as the U.S. withdraws its remaining troops from the country. While the Biden administration set Sept. 11 as the deadline for all U.S. forces to leave Afghanistan, American officials have suggested that the pullout could be completed as soon as July 4.
Achievements made by Afghan women over the past 20 years, particularly in girls’ education, would be most at risk amid a deteriorating security situation, as militants intensify attacks and try to seize more territory from the embattled Afghan government.
Many Hazaras, a minority in a predominantly Sunni Muslim nation, vehemently criticize Mr. Ghani’s government as failing to protect them. Following Saturday’s bombing, residents of the area attacked police officers and prevented security forces from entering the scene, said a senior security official said.
If Islamic State was behind Saturday’s bombing, it was likely meant to spark sectarian strife by showing that Mr. Ghani’s government is unable to protect the Hazara community, said Ibraheem Bahiss, an analyst focusing on Afghan affairs. “Such attacks continue to alienate the Hazara minority from the government,” he said.
President Biden’s decision to exit Afghanistan no later than Sept. 11 follows a February 2020 deal between the Taliban and the Trump administration that committed the insurgents to enter peace talks with the Afghan government.