KABUL, Afghanistan – The death toll from a horrific bombing at a girls’ school in the Afghan capital has risen to 50, many of them students between the ages of 11 and 15, the Interior Ministry said Sunday.
The number of wounded in Saturday’s attack has also risen to more than 100, Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said.
Three explosions outside the school entrance hit as students went for the day, he said. The blasts took place in a most Shiite neighborhood in the western part of the capital. The Taliban denied responsibility and condemned the attack.
The first explosion came from a vehicle packed with explosives, followed by two others, Arian said, adding that the number of accidents could still increase.
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In the capital, rattled by relentless bombs, Saturday̵
The attack was aimed at Afghanistan’s ethnic Hazaras, which dominate the western Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood where the bombings took place. Most Hazaras are Shia Muslims
The area has been hit by violence against Shia Muslims and is often claimed by the affiliated company of the Islamic State operating in the country. No one has yet claimed Saturday’s bombs.
The radical Sunni Muslim group has declared war on Afghanistan’s Shiites. Washington accused IS of a vicious attack last year on a maternity hospital in the same area that killed pregnant and newborn babies.
Shortly after the bombing, angry crowds attacked ambulances and even beat health workers as they tried to evacuate the wounded, Health Ministry spokesman Ghulam Dastigar Nazari said. He had encouraged residents to cooperate and give ambulances free access to the site.
Bloody backpacks and school books lay strewn outside the Syed Al-Shahda school. In the morning, boys attend classes in the scattered school complex, and in the afternoon it is the girls’ turn.
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Residents in the area said the blast was deafening. Naser Rahimi told the Associated Press that he heard three separate explosions and immediately believed that the great force of the explosion meant that the number of deaths would almost certainly increase.
One of the students fleeing the school recalled the attack, the girls’ screams of the girls, the blood.
“I was with my classmate, we were leaving school when suddenly there was an explosion,” said 15-year-old Zahra, whose arm had been broken by a piece of shrapnel.
“Ten minutes later there was another explosion and just a few minutes later another explosion,” she said. “Everyone was shouting and there was blood everywhere and I could not see anything clearly.” Her friend died.
Outside Muhammad Ali Jinnah Hospital in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, dozens of people lined up to donate blood while family members checked the victims’ lists on the walls.
Most of the dozens of wounded who were brought to NODHospital for the Wounded in the Afghan capital, “almost all girls and young women between the ages of 12 and 20,” said Marco Puntin, the hospital’s program coordinator in Afghanistan.
In a statement after the attack, EMERGENCY Hospital said the first three months of this year have seen a 21 percent increase in war casualties.
IS has previously claimed attacks on minority Shia Muslims in the same area and last year claimed two brutal attacks on educational facilities that killed 50 people, most of them students.
Even as IS, according to government and US officials, has been dismantled in Afghanistan, it has intensified its attacks especially against Shia Muslims and female workers.
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Earlier, the group claimed responsibility for the targeted killings of three female media personnel in eastern Afghanistan.
The attack comes days after the remaining 2,500 to 3,500 U.S. troops officially began leaving the country. They will be out by September 11th. The withdrawal comes amid a resurgent Taliban that controls or controls half of Afghanistan.
The top US military official said on Sunday that Afghan government forces were facing an uncertain future and possibly some “poor possible results” against Taliban insurgents as the withdrawal accelerates in the coming weeks.
Associated Press photographer Rahmat Gul and video journalist Ahmad Seir in Kabul, Afghanistan and Kathy Gannon in Islamabad, Pakistan contributed to this report.