Grieving Families Bury Kabul Explosion Victims

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    A bomb exploded near a girls’ school in a majority Shiite district of west Kabul on Saturday, killing at least 50 people, many of them young pupils between 11 and 15 years old. The Taliban condemned the attack and denied any responsibility.

    Ambulances evacuated the wounded as relatives and residents screamed at authorities near the scene of the blast at Syed Al-Shahda school, in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said. The death toll was expected to rise further.

    The bombing, apparently aimed to cause maximum civilian carnage, adds to fears that violence in the war-wrecked country could escalate as the U.S. and NATO end nearly 20 years of military engagement.

    Residents in the area said the explosion was deafening. One, Naser Rahimi, told The Associated Press he heard three separate explosions, although there was no official confirmation of multiple blasts. Rahimi also said he believed that the sheer power of the explosion meant the death toll would almost certainly climb.

    Rahimi said the explosion went off as the girls were streaming out of the school at around 4:30 p.m. local time. Authorities were investigating the attack but have yet to confirm any details.

    One of the students fleeing the school recalled the attack. the screaming of the girls, the blood.

    “I was with my classmate, we were leaving the school, when suddenly an explosion happened, “ said 15-year-old Zahra, whose arm had been broken by a piece of shrapnel.

    “Ten minutes later there was another explosion and just a couple of minutes later another explosion,” she said. “Everyone was yelling and there was blood everywhere, and I couldn’t see anything clearly.” Her friend died.

    While no one has claimed responsibility for the bombing, the Afghan Islamic State affiliate has targeted the Shiite neighborhood before.

    The radical Sunni Muslim group has declared war on Afghanistan’s minority Shiite Muslims. Washington blamed IS for a vicious attack last year in a maternity hospital in the same area that killed pregnant women and newborn babies.

    In Dasht-e-Barchi, angry crowds attacked the ambulances and even beat health workers as they tried to evacuate the wounded, Health Ministry spokesman Ghulam Dastigar Nazari said. He implored residents to cooperate and allow ambulances free access to the site.

    Images circulating on social media purportedly showed bloodied school backpacks and books strewn across the street in front if the school, and smoke rising above the neighborhood.

    At one nearby hospital, Associated Press journalists saw at least 20 dead bodies lined up in hallways and rooms, with dozens of wounded people and families of victims pressing through the facility.

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    Outside the Muhammad Ali Jinnah Hospital, dozens of people lined up to donate blood, while family members checked casualty posted lists on the walls.

    Both Arian and Nazari said that at least 50 people were also wounded, and that the casualty toll could rise. The attack occurred just as the fasting day came to an end.

    No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, and Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters in a message that only the Islamic State group could be responsible for such a heinous crime. Mujahid also accused Afghanistan’s intelligence agency of being complicit with IS, although he offered no evidence.

    The Taliban and the Afghan government have traded accusations over a series of targeted killings of civil society workers, journalists and Afghan professionals. While IS has taken responsibility for some of those killings, many have gone unclaimed.

    Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a statement condemning the attack, blaming the Taliban even as they denied it. He offered no proof.

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    In This Story: Afghanistan

    Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country at the crossroads of Central and South Asia. Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan to the east and south; Iran to the west; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north; and China to the northeast.

    Occupying 652,000 square kilometers (252,000 sq mi), it is a mountainous country with plains in the north and southwest. Kabul is the capital and largest city. The population is around 32 million, composed mostly of ethnic Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks.

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