Afghan School Blast Toll Rises to 68, Families Bury Victims

KABUL—The death toll from a bomb attack outside a school in the Afghan capital Kabul has risen to 68, officials said on Sunday, with doctors struggling to care for 165 injured victims and families searching desperately for missing children.

Explosions on Saturday evening shook the neighbourhood of Dasht-e-Barchi, home to a large community of Shi’ites from the Hazara ethnic minority which has been targeted in the past by ISIS, a Sunni terrorist group.

A car bomb was detonated in front of the Sayed Al-Shuhada school and two more bombs exploded when students rushed out in panic.

Officials said most of those killed were schoolgirls. Some families were still searching hospitals for their children.

“The first blast was powerful and happened so close to the children that some of them could not be found,” said an Afghan official, requesting anonymity.

An eyewitness told Reuters all but seven or eight of the victims were schoolgirls going home after finishing their studies. On Sunday, civilians and policemen collected books and school bags strewn across a blood-stained road now busy with shoppers ahead of celebrations for Eid al-Fitr next week.

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Relatives mourn the victims of May 8’s explosion during a mass funeral ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 9, 2021. (Stringer/Reuters)

Bodies were still being collected from morgues as the first burials were conducted in the 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, who has been helping families of the victims at a private hospital.

Security was intensified across Kabul after the attack but authorities said they would not be able to provide security to all schools, mosques and other public places.

President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday blamed Taliban terrorists but a spokesman for the group denied involvement and condemned any attacks on Afghan civilians.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also condemned the attack and expressed his deepest sympathies to the victims’ families and to the Afghan government and people.

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People stand at the site of a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 8, 2021. (Stringer/Reuters)