The weekend’s tragedy in Afghanistan has deepened as the bombing near a school in Kabul, killing no fewer than 60 people, predominantly students, happened in the holy month of Ramzan and coincides with the gradual pullout of American troops from the country.
The heartrending nature of the incident is reaffirmed with the fact that at least 150 people, many of them young women, were grievously wounded in the attack in a Shia neighbourhood of the Afghan capital. The place has often been targeted by the Sunni entity, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Though no group has as yet claimed responsibility, it is the Taliban that is generally suspected.
At one level, therefore, Saturday’s outrage is an offensive against the education of women, as had once happened to Malala Yousufzai. The children were returning home after finishing their studies. So too was Malala. This time, the range of the mayhem was frightfully sweeping and not what they call a surgical strike.
The other factor is the ignoble intra-religious strife and the possible involvement of the Sunni-dominated ISIS in the Shia-populated Dashte-Barchi cannot be ruled out. The enormity of the tragedy is heightened with visuals of people preparing victims’ coffins for a mass funeral ceremony. Kabul has been on alert since Washington announced plans last month to pull out all US troops by September 11, with Afghan officials saying the Taliban has stepped up its attacks across the country.
For all the periodic jaw-jaw in Doha, the Taliban remains ever so murderous. The mayhem demonstrates that the vicinity of Kabul remains dangerous. The West’s departure from Afghanistan is a gamble. The Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, issued a statement condemning the attack, blaming the Taliban even as the group denied it. He offered no proof, however.
“The Taliban, by escalating their illegitimate war and violence, have once again shown that they are not only reluctant to resolve the current crisis peacefully and fundamentally, but by complicating the situation,” Ghani said. The Taliban condemned the attack, apparently aimed at civilians, and denied any responsibility.
It took place in a neighbourhood that has frequently been attacked by ISIS fighters over the years. The entire city is numb after this attack. The institution is a joint high school for girls and boys, who study in three shifts, the second of which is for female students, according to Afghanistan’s education ministry.
The European Union mission in Afghanistan condemned what it said was a “horrendous attack”. This is a “despicable act of terrorism,” the mission said on Twitter. “Targeting primarily students in a girls’ school makes this an attack on the future of Afghanistan, indeed on young people determined to improve their country.”
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has expressed its “deep revulsion” at the blast. Adults have killed children returning home from school. It is a militant attack on learning per se.