Schoolgirls buried after school massacre in Afghanistan

Dozens of young girls were buried today in a desolate hilltop cemetery in Kabul, a day after a high school was the target of the bloodiest attack in Afghanistan in more than a year.

A series of explosions outside the school during the peak holiday shopping season killed more than 50 people, most of them female students, and injured more than 100 in Dasht-e-Barchi, a western suburb of Kabul populated mainly by Hazara Shiites.

Students at the school protested the lack of teachers and study materials last week, said Mirza Hussain, a university student from the area. “But what they got (in return) was a massacre.”

Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said he was “deeply shocked and saddened” by the attack. “I wish the injured a speedy recovery. This horrific violence must stop,” he added.

Pope Francis also offered his prayers for the victims of the attack, describing it as “an inhumane action that killed many girls as they left school”.

“Pray for all of them and their families, and God grant peace to Afghanistan,” he said.

The Afghan government blamed the Taliban for the carnage, but the insurgents denied responsibility and issued a statement saying the nation must “safeguard and care for educational centers and institutions.”

Yesterday’s explosions came as the U.S. military continues to withdraw its last 2,500 troops from the violence-ravaged country despite hesitant peace efforts between the Taliban and the Afghan government to end a decades-long war.

Spectators stand at the gates of the school where the attack took place

Interior Ministry spokesman Tareq Arian told reporters that a car bomb exploded outside the Sayed Al-Shuhada girls’ school and when the students panicked two more devices went off. exploded.

Residents were shopping ahead of this week’s Eid al-Fitr holiday – which marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan – when the blasts occurred.

Today, relatives buried the dead on a hill known as the “Martyrs’ Cemetery”, where victims of attacks against the Hazara community lie.

The Hazaras are Shia Muslims and considered heretics by Sunni extremists. Sunni Muslims constitute the majority of the Afghan population.

Bodies in wooden coffins were placed in graves one by one by mourners still in shock and fear, an AFP photographer said.

“I rushed to the scene (after the explosions) and found myself among the bodies, with my hands and head severed and bones broken,” said Mohammad Taqi, a resident of Dasht-e-Barchi, whose both girls were students at school but had escaped the attack.

“They were all girls. Their bodies were stacked on top of each other.”

Books and satchels belonging to the victims still lay scattered around the site of the attack.

Afghan officials, including President Ashraf Ghani, blamed the Taliban.

“This savage group lacks the power to confront security forces on the battlefield, and instead targets with brutality and barbarity public facilities and the girls’ school,” Ghani said in a statement afterwards. explosions.

The Taliban have denied any involvement and insist they have not carried out an attack in Kabul since February last year.

It was then that they signed a deal with Washington that paved the way for peace talks and the withdrawal of the remaining US troops.

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