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Afghanistan School Bombing Targets Minority Community

Attack on Hazara Students Highlights War’s Toll on Civilians

Afghan men bury a victim of the suicide attack that targeted a school  in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 25, 2020.  © 2020 AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib

As Afghan peace talks crawl along in Doha, a brutal attack on a school in Kabul on Saturday underscored the terrible toll the conflict continues to take on civilians.

A massive suicide bombing on October 24 outside the Kawsar-e Danish educational center in west Kabul was the latest attack cruelly targeting the Hazara Shia minority. The explosion took place in a crowded, narrow street outside the center, killing 30 people and injuring more than 70, mostly children and young adults between 15 and 26 years old who were attending classes.

Since 2017, the Dasht-e Barchi neighborhood, home to a predominantly Hazara community, has seen numerous attacks on civilians. A bombing at the Imam Zaman mosque in October 2017 killed 39; an attack on a school in August 2018 killed more than 34 students; and twin bombings at a wrestling club in September 2018 killed 20, including journalists and first responders who arrived after the first explosion. In May, gunmen murdered 15 women in the maternity wing of the Dasht-e Barchi hospital, many of whom were in labor or had just given birth.

The Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), the Afghan branch of the Islamic State (ISIS), claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack. The armed group has claimed responsibility for many such bombings and has long singled out Afghanistan’s Hazara Shia community for attack. Intentional attacks on civilians are grave violations of the laws of war, and those responsible should be prosecuted for war crimes.

Many mosques and educational facilities in Kabul now have armed guards, but this offers little protection from such calculated attacks. Afghan authorities repeatedly promise investigations, including tasking the attorney general’s war crimes unit to carry them out, but none have yielded results, leaving family members of victims with neither answers nor justice.

“They are killing our youth,” said the relative of one of the victims of Saturday’s attack. The students, many from poor families who, as one of their teachers said, had come to Kabul in hope “for a brighter future.” On Sunday they were buried.


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