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Death toll soars to 50 in school bombing in Afghan capital

KABUL, Afghanistan — Grieving families buried their dead Sunday following a horrific bombing at a girls’ school in the Afghan capital that killed 50 people, many of them pupils between 11 and 15 years old.

The number of wounded in Saturday’s attack climbed to more than 100, said Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian. In the western neighborhood of Dasht-e-Barchi, families buried their dead amid angry recriminations at a government they said has failed to protect them from repeated attacks in the mostly Shiite Muslim neighborhood.

“The government reacts after the incident, it doesn’t do anything before the incident,” said Mohammad Baqir, Alizada, 41, who had gathered to bury his niece, Latifa, a Grade 11 student the Syed Al-Shahda school.

Three explosions outside the school entrance struck as students were leaving for the day, said Arian. The blasts targeted Afghanistan’s ethnic Hazaras who dominate the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, where the bombings occurred. Most Hazaras are Shiite Muslims. The Taliban denied responsibility, condemning the attack and the many deaths.

The first explosion came from a vehicle packed with explosives, followed by two others, said Arian, adding that the casualty figures could still rise.

In the capital rattled by relentless bombings, Saturday’s attack was among the worst. Criticism has mounted over lack of security and growing fears of even more violence as the U.S. and NATO complete their final military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

At Vatican City, in his traditional Sunday remarks to faithful in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis cited the bombing. “Let us pray for the victims of the terrorist attack in Kabul, an inhumane action that struck so many girls as they were coming out of school.” He said. The pontiff then added: “May God give Afghanistan peace.”

The Dasht-e-Barchi area has been hit by several incidents of violence targeting minority Shiites and most often claimed by the Islamic State affiliate operating in the country. No one has yet claimed Saturday’s bombings.

In this same neighborhood in 2018, a school bombing killed 34 people, mostly students. In September 2018 a wrestling club was attacked killing 24 people and in May 2020 a maternity hospital was brutally attacked killing 24 people, including pregnant women and infants.

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