A suicide bombing at an education center in Kabul has killed at least 23 people, most of them believed to be young women, in the latest sign of the deteriorating security situation in the Afghan capital.
The blast happened Friday at the Kaz Shikshan Center, a neighborhood of the Hazara majority – an ethnic minority group that has long faced repression.
Students were taking a practice university entrance exam at 7:30 a.m. local time (11 p.m. ET) when the first explosion occurred, Kabul police spokesman Khalid Zadran told CNN.
Abdu Ghayas Momand, a doctor at Ali Jinnah Hospital, where some of the victims were taken, said 23 people had been killed and 36 more injured.
Responsibility for this attack has not been accepted.
Eyewitness Taiba Mehtarkhil told CNN that many of the dead were young women. She went to the center to look for her friend after she heard about the attack and was met with scenes of confusion and despair, she said.
“I saw parents, other family members of working students screaming and running up and down,” she said. “Some were trying to get their loved ones emergency medical help while others were looking for their sons and daughters. I saw with my own eyes about 20 killed and many injured.”
Mehtarkhil’s girlfriend survived the attack as she was running late and had not reached class when the blast occurred.
The 20-year-old woman, who did not want to be named for safety reasons, told CNN that she was about 20 steps away from the gate when the blast knocked her to the ground.
“When I entered, I saw many of my classmates lying in a pool of blood. I found out that there was an explosion in my classroom,” she said through tears.
“I was in shock. I was just yelling my friends names and looking for them. I found some of them alive, but not my best friend who was 19 and the smartest girl in our class,” she said.
Her classroom is the largest in the center and usually seats 500 male and female students, she said.
“It’s terrible, I’m still in shock, it’s a nightmare. Many of my best friends and classmates were killed. I don’t want the world to think of this as another news story. I want the world to know the pain we are going through right now. I am completely devastated,” she said.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid condemned the attack in a tweet on Friday.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has called the attack on the Qaz training center in Kabul’s 13th district a grave crime, strongly condemning it and expressing its deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the incident.”
“Strong steps will be taken to track down the culprits and punish them,” he added.
UNICEF said it was “appalled by the horrific attack”. Tweet friday
“This heinous act claimed the lives of dozens of teenage girls and boys and left many seriously injured,” it said. “Violence is never acceptable in or around educational institutions. Such places should be havens of peace where children can learn, be with friends and feel safe as they build skills for their future.”
The United States said in a statement on Twitter that it “strongly condemned the attack”.
Targeting a room full of students taking exams is embarrassing; All students should be able to study in peace and without fear,” Charge d’Affaires of the US Mission in Afghanistan wrote.
Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August 2021, the Hazara community has been subjected to several attacks.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Islamic State of Khorasan province has claimed responsibility for 13 attacks on Hazaras and is linked to three more attacks that have killed and wounded at least 700 people.
“Taliban authorities have done little to protect these communities from suicide bombings and other illegal attacks, or to provide essential medical care and other assistance to victims and their families,” the report said.
Dozens of people have been killed in attacks in Kabul in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, two Russian embassy staff were among six people killed in a suicide bombing near the Russian embassy, and in August an explosion at a mosque during evening prayers killed 21 people and injured 33 others.
This is a breaking news. There is more to come.