Kabul, Afghanistan – As sunset approached, Latifah was busy preparing food so her family could break her fast when she heard a loud boom echoing across the sky.
The sound shook his two daughters, nine and six, who had just returned from school early in the day. The 28-year-old tried to calm them down as he ran to the window to see what was happening. He feared the worst, as Dasht-e-Barchi, the Shiite district of Kabul where he lives, has been repeatedly targeted by the ISIL armed group (ISIS) in recent years.
When he reached the window, he heard another explosion: it seemed closer than before. Then came the loudest, shaking boom. The proximity of the three explosions terrified her. Her simple mud house was located a few hundred yards from Syed Al-Shuhada School, a school for girls where high school classes had just been dropped off.
Looking out his window, he saw people running to help the wounded and dead and the flowing smoke, describing it as “as if the day of judgment had come.”
The death toll has risen to 58, including school girls, with more than 100 injured.
“My heart sank. What threat can teenage girls pose to anyone, ”she asked, sitting a few feet from a pile of abandoned school books, notes, shoes and backpacks that residents had piled up as a sign of what had really happened. aimed at the attack on Saturday afternoons: education.
But on Sunday morning the sadness had given way to anger.
More than 12 hours after Saturday’s 4:30 p.m. attack, no group, including the Taliban, had claimed responsibility. This was the second attack on Afghan students in so many weeks. Saturday’s bombing was preceded by an April 30 car bomb near a guest house where students were staying in the eastern province of Logar. That attack was also not claimed.
The government blamed the lack of security
Al Jazeera residents spoke on Sunday that they said the government has done almost nothing to secure Dasht-e-Barchi, despite knowing it has been repeatedly attacked by forces demanding allegiance to ISIL.
Mohammad Ehsan Haidari, who works in a workshop near the site of one of the explosions, said he was dismayed by the slow response from police and intelligence forces.
“I called the police at 4.33pm and they told me they were aware of what was going on and that they would send cars soon.”
Haidari and other residents in the area said officials took at least an hour to arrive at the site.
He did not wait for the police, rushed to the scene of the first explosion, was believed to be an improvised explosive device and quickly took one of the injured girls to a nearby hospital. He says he saw five dead bodies: three girls, an old man and a teenage boy.
“She was lying there unconscious; I couldn’t be older than 14. I grabbed her and threw her in my car, ”the 26-year-old told Al Jazeera.
However, with the departure of the other explosions (on both sides of the school and the road leading to it) and the crowds rushing to help the victims, it was difficult to maneuver down the dirt road leading to the street. main.
“The crowds kept growing, everyone brought whoever they could to home or to the hospital,” Haidari said. All the while, he and other residents said police and ambulance arrived late.
Neighbors say the car caught by a booby, which is believed to have been the final blast, had been parked outside the school for several hours.
Even more infuriating, residents said, was the fact that two police barracks were located a few miles from the school.
Commander Naser Naderi of the police district headquarters defended the police response. “The Police District did its job to the best of its ability.”
When the police, intelligence and ambulances arrived, they became the target of the fury of the peoples.
A 20-year-old man, who did not want to give his name, said he tried to prevent people from breaking the windows of ambulances and told them to confront the police and intelligence officers.
Orientation of hazares
Some in the crowd said the attack had taken place because they were Hazara, a long-persecuted group in Afghanistan who came to blame President Ashraf Ghani himself for the goals of his community for years.
“Why were they not the children of Ghani, they are not even here,” a woman said through tears in reference to the usual criticism that many of the children of senior Afghan officials do not live in the country.
Latifah, the mother of two young women, said whoever is behind the attack has achieved her motive: to keep the children in school.
“My girls cried all night last night and woke up saying, ‘Don’t send us to school, school is where you die.’
Mirwais, an independent electrician, came to the emergency hospital in the Kabul shopping center to donate blood. The 36-year-old was one of 100 people who came Sunday all day after reading about the need for plasma in a Facebook group.
He claims that “enemies of national unity in Afghanistan” are to blame for the attack, but believes the government cannot be exempted from at least some of the blame either.
Mirwais says with the current uncertainty over peace talks and the withdrawal of foreign forces in September, government leaders are “busy with their own wheels and dealings, they are not worried about the Afghan people, they just maintain their status.” .
“They’re one of the poorest people, in Barchi, living a simple life, and yet you look at what they still have to face because no one pays attention to it,” he told Al Jazeera.
He also invoked a common critique of current political elites, namely that many of his families are abroad. “What do they care, their kids aren’t here and when things go wrong, they can fly with their second passport themselves.”
Many of the residents, including those who shouted loudly against the government and security forces, refused to give their name to the media, proof of their sense that their community is constantly threatened especially by forces claiming allegiance. at ISIL, they also addressed Ashoura commemorations and academic institutions attended by members of the Hazara ethnic group in Kabul.
Saturday’s bombings come just days after the one-year anniversary of an attack on a nearby maternity hospital that left at least 24 people dead, including new mothers.
Many of the young people gathered felt that if the government was not able to protect them, “we will protect ourselves.”
However, with some warnings about the impending civil war following the planned withdrawal of U.S.-led foreign forces on 9/11, that prospect may frighten Afghan authorities, who are already tired of ethnic militias appearing in the U.S. country in 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 it was education that died in Afghanistan.”