The Emergency NGO Hospital in Kabul said in a tweet it had received 22 patients so far, adding that most of them were women aged 18-25 who were taking an exam.
Husnia Azimi was one of those killed in the suicide bombing. She left home on Friday morning to attend the exam, even though her sister Zainab told her it was late and not to go.
“Once she left, it was around 9am that we heard about the explosion,” said Zainab. “We didn’t hear its sound, but once we got the news, we went to all the hospitals, Ali Jinnah hospital, Watan hospital, and other hospitals.
“But when we went to the Emergency Hospital, we got a call from Ali Jinnah hospital that my sister’s dead body was found. Then we went back there and saw her body.”
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. But the Islamic State group, the chief rival of the Taliban, has been waging a campaign of violence that has intensified since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in August 2021.
Afghanistan’s Hazaras, who are mostly Shiite Muslims, have been a frequent target of the violence. In Dashti Barchi, IS carried out a 2020 attack on a maternity hospital that killed 24 people, including newborn babies and mothers, and an attack on a school in 2021 that killed more than 90, mostly schoolgirls. The neighbourhood sees frequent bombings of minibuses and, earlier this year, a school and another education centre were hit near simultaneously, killing six.
The local police chief, Abdul Rahman Nafiz, criticised the centre for failing to inform security officials about the practice exam.
“Neither police officials nor intelligence officials were aware of any activity going on or a big exam happening in this centre, so the officials from the centre were very reckless,” he said. “Now our mujaheddin [Taliban police] are here, and they are investigating the incident.”
Amnesty International’s South Asia campaigner, Samira Hamidi, said Friday’s attack showed the “utter failure of the Taliban, as de-facto authorities, to protect the people of Afghanistan”.
She said the Taliban have taken few measures to protect the public, especially Shiites and Hazaras. “Instead, their actions of omission and commission have only further aggravated the risk to the lives of the people of Afghanistan, especially those belonging to ethnic and minority communities,” she said.
The US chargé d’affaires for Afghanistan, Karen Decker, condemned Friday’s attack in a tweet.
“Targeting a room full of students taking exams is shameful; all students should be able to pursue an education in peace & without fear,” she said. “We hope for a swift recovery for the victims & we grieve with the families of the deceased.”
The United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said it was appalled by Friday’s horrific attack. “Children and adolescents are not, and must never be, the target of violence,” it said in a tweet.
Since seizing power, the Taliban have banned most girls beyond the sixth grade from attending school. But female high school graduates from previous years can go to university.
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