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Bombing Near Kabul School Kills At Least 50, Many Of Them Girls

Many of the victims were young students. No group has claimed responsibility. The U.S. and NATO are in the process of removing their troops from the country, raising fears of increased attacks.



An injured school student is transported to a hospital after a bomb explosion near a school in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday.
An injured school student is transported to a hospital after a bomb explosion near a school in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday. Rahmat Gul | AP
Updated May 9, 2021 at 7:24 AM ET

A bombing near a school in Kabul on Saturday killed at least 50 people, many of them young students.

At least 100 people were wounded in the attack, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian, the Associated Press reports. He told the AP that casualties could continue to rise.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani blamed the Taliban, but a Taliban spokesperson condemned the attack and denied responsibility. Islamic State militants have also carried out attacks in the area in the past.

Female students may have been targeted. The Sayed Ul-Shuhada high school teaches boys and girls, but not together. Girls attend classes in the afternoon when the explosion occurred.

It happened in the Kabul district of Dasht-e-Barchi, where gunmen killed 16 people in a hospital maternity ward one year ago. Among the victims were newborns, their mothers and the nurses who had been supporting them.

It comes as the U.S. and NATO have begun removing all their remaining troops from Afghanistan. President Biden says he is aiming to complete the drawdown by Sept. 11, marking the end a 20-year war.

U.S. intelligence agencies have warned that "the Taliban is likely to make gains on the battlefield, and the Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support."

Deadly attacks in Afghanistan have increased in recent days.

The New York Times reports that for the week ending May 6, "at least 140 pro-government forces and 44 civilians were killed in Afghanistan ... the highest death toll in a single week since October."

When Biden announced the drawdown last month, he pledged the U.S. will "keep providing assistance" to Afghan security forces, and reorganize U.S. counterterrorism forces "over the horizon," to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a safe haven for terrorists planning attacks against the U.S.

Former President Donald Trump had pledged a full withdrawal of U.S. troops by May 1, a deadline Biden had said would be tough to meet.

The Taliban opposes most education for women and girls.

Ross Wilson, the U.S. chargé d'affaires in Kabul, called the attack on the school "abhorrent."

"This unforgivable attack on children is an assault on Afghanistan's future, which cannot stand," he wrote.

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Transcript :


At least 50 people have died, and more than 100 are wounded after three explosions tore apart a girl's school in the capital of Afghanistan. The bombing happened just as school was letting out. And many of the dead were students between the ages of 11 and 15. Sonia Ghezali is a reporter with Radio France Internationale. She joins us now from Kabul. Welcome to the program.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: You attended some of the funerals this morning. Can you tell me a little bit about how the families are coping right now, what they said?

GHEZALI: It's very, very hard because, actually - so the families decided to bury all their loved ones at the same place. So it's a hill on the west of Kabul in Hazara, actually, area where - so the minority - these Shia minority in Afghanistan live mostly in Kabul. And so they decided to bury all the victims at once. And so there were many young men digging the graves and all this family crying and - but with a lot of dignity because you can imagine it's really, really hard for them. And there were, like, so many people coming from the same neighborhood to share this very sad moment. They were really actually happy that there were so many journalists because this minority feel that nobody is really taking care of them in Afghanistan. And they feel that nobody's really paying attention to what's happening to them.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So these were members of the Hazara minority there. Is there any claim of responsibility?

GHEZALI: So far, not. The Taliban say that they are not behind this attack. So now everybody is looking at Daesh because they're the ones who are always targeting the Shia - the Hazara here in Afghanistan.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: When you say Daesh, of course, we're talking about ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for other attacks. They are, of course, representative of the Sunni Muslim strain in Islam. And, of course, the Hazara, as you mentioned, are part of the Shia minority. The U.S. blamed ISIS for a similar horrific attack in a maternity hospital in the same neighborhood outside Kabul last year. Is that why people believe that this may be linked to them?

GHEZALI: Yeah, exactly. And it's not just about this maternity, which was led by Medecins Sans Frontieres, MSF, but because they are behind many attacks against mosques in the same area - in the same neighborhood, against a wrestling club, as well, against many schools and cultural centers. So that - this is the reason why people think that ISIS is behind this attack again.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's been less than 10 days since the U.S. started withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. I mean, is there any sense that there's a connection to that?

GHEZALI: Yeah, people are very worried because they see that, even if foreign troops are here, it doesn't prevent ISIS to target Shia people. It doesn't prevent Taliban to lead heavy, big attacks against the Afghan forces, against the civilians, as well. So people are very worried to see the situation getting worse and worse as soon as foreign forces leave the country.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sonia Ghezali is a reporter with Radio France Internationale. She's in Kabul, Afghanistan. Thank you very much.

GHEZALI: Thank you. Thank you to you.

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