Kabul, Afghanistan – As the sun approached, Latifah was busy preparing food for her family to break the fast when she heard a loud boom echoing in the sky.
The sound shook her two daughters, nine and six, who had just returned from school earlier today. The 28-year-old tried to calm them down rushing to the window to see what happened. She feared the worst, as Dasht-e-Barchi, the Shiite neighborhood of Kabul where she lives, has been repeatedly targeted by the armed group ISIL (ISIS) in recent years.
By the time she got to the window, she heard another explosion – it seemed closer than the previous one. Then came the loudest and most shaken boom. The proximity of the three explosions terrified her. Her simple mud house was located just a few hundred meters from Syed Al-Shuhada School, a girls’ school where high school classes had just been released.
Looking out of her window, she saw people running to help the wounded and killed and the smoke billowing, describing her as “like the day of judgment has come”.
The death toll has now risen to 58, including schoolgirls, with more than 100 others injured.
“My heart sank. What threat could teenage girls pose to anyone?
By Sunday morning, however, sadness had given way to anger.
More than 12 hours after the attack on Saturday 4:30 p.m., no group, including the Taliban, had claimed responsibility. It was the second attack on Afghan students in as many weeks. Saturday’s attack was preceded by a car bomb on April 30 near a guesthouse where students were staying in the eastern province of Logar. This attack was also not claimed.
Government blamed for lack of security
On Sunday, Al Jazeera residents said the government had not done enough to secure Dasht-e-Barchi, although he knew he had been repeatedly attacked by forces claiming allegiance to ISIL .
Mohammad Ehsan Haidari, who works in a workshop near the site of one of the blasts, said he was dismayed by the slow response from police and intelligence services.
“I called the police at 4:33 p.m. they said they knew what was going on and they would send cars out shortly.”
Haidari and others in the area said it took officials at least an hour to get to the scene.
He didn’t wait for the police, he rushed to the scene of the first explosion, considered an improvised explosive device (IED), and quickly took one of the injured girls to a nearby hospital. He says he saw five corpses – three girls, an old man and a teenager.
“She was just lying there unconscious; she couldn’t be more than 14 years old. I grabbed it and threw it in my car, ”the 26-year-old told Al Jazeera.
However, with the other explosions – on both sides of the school and on the road to it – and the crowds rushing to help the victims, it was difficult to make their way along the dirt road to the street. main.
“The crowds kept growing, everyone took whoever they could to their home or hospital,” Haidari said. All the while, he and other residents said the police, as well as the ambulance, had arrived late.
Residents say the car bomb, believed to be the latest explosion, was parked outside the school for several hours.
Even more infuriating, residents said, was the fact that two police stations were located a few kilometers from the school.
Commander Naser Naderi from the police headquarters defended the police response. “The police district has done its job to the best of its ability.”
When the police, intelligence services and ambulances arrived, they became the targets of people’s fury.
A young man in his 20s, who did not want to give his name, said he tried to stop people from smashing the windows of ambulances, telling them to confront police and service officers. intelligence instead.
Some in the crowd said the attack took place because they were Hazara, a group long persecuted in Afghanistan, going so far as to blame President Ashraf Ghani himself for targeting their community for years.
“Why wasn’t it Ghani’s children, they’re not even there,” a tearful woman said in reference to the common criticism that many children of Afghanistan’s top officials do not live in the area. country.
Latifah, the mother of two young girls, said whoever was behind the attack achieved his goal of preventing the children from going to school.
“My daughters cried all night last night, waking up saying, ‘Don’t send us to school, you die at school.
Mirwais, a self-employed electrician, came to the Kabul Mall Emergency Hospital to donate blood. The 36-year-old was among at least 100 people who came throughout the day on Sunday after reading a need for plasma on a Facebook group.
He says “the enemies of national unity in Afghanistan” are to blame for the attack, but believes the government also cannot shirk at least some of the blame.
Mirwais says that with the current uncertainty surrounding the peace talks and the withdrawal of foreign forces in September, government leaders are “busy with their own movement, they don’t care about the Afghan people, only to maintain their status. “.
“They are among the poorest people in Barchi, leading a simple life, and yet look at what they still have to face because no one is paying attention,” he told Al Jazeera.
He also cited a common criticism of current political elites that many of their families are abroad. “What do they care, their kids aren’t around and when things go wrong they can just fly away with their second passport on their own.”
Many residents, including those who led strong chants against the government and the security forces, refused to give their names to the media, demonstrating their feeling that their community is under constant threat, especially by the forces that claim allegiance to ISIS, which has also targeted Ashura commemorations and academic institutions attended by members of the Hazara ethnic group from Kabul.
Saturday’s attacks come days before the first anniversary of an attack on a nearby maternity hospital that has left at least 24 dead, including new mothers.
Many young men gathered together felt that if the government was unable to protect them: “We will protect ourselves.”
However, with some warnings of the looming civil war following the planned 9/11 withdrawal of US-led foreign forces, the prospect could frighten Afghan authorities, who are already tired of the ethnic militias appearing in the country during ‘a repeat of the civil war of the 1990s.
Latifah says young people will continue to pay the price unless something is done to secure Dasht-e-Barchi.
“Yesterday, education really died in Afghanistan.”