Afghans fear return to violence after attack on Kabul school – Reuters

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KABUL – One of the victims was the caretaker of the neighborhood mosque, a modest man in his 50s known for helping people in need. The other was an aspiring high school student, second in her class, and studying for her college entrance exams.

On Tuesday, minutes apart, both lay dying on the same sidewalk and were injured by two consecutive bombings outside the walls of a large public school in Dasht-i-Barchi, a bustling working-class district in the center. of Kabul. Shia Hazara minority community.

Police said on Tuesday nine people were killed and 19 injured. Six people were killed in a separate explosion near a private classroom in the area. No group took responsibility.

The oldest man, Syed Hussain Hussani, and the youngest, 18-year-old Milad Alizada, were buried after sunrise in simple earthen tombs lined with rose petals and unmarked stones. Later at home, friends and relatives gathered for prayer, crying condolences, and silent contemplation.

in all their minds It was the same question as the loss of a loved one: Why does this still happen to us?

After years of frequent terrorist attacks on the Hazara community, often attributed to Sunni extremists affiliated with the Islamic State, a rare calm had settled since August, when the Sunni Taliban movement took power, promising to restore security to the capital.

After the bombings, mourners and other residents of Dasht-i-Barchi expressed a mixture of doubt, disappointment, and vague conspiracy theories. Some said that the Islamic State group known here as Daesh took a break during the transition to power and wanted to reassert its power. Some suggested that the Taliban were secretly behind the attacks, seeking to suppress an ambitious rival group. Others cautiously blamed Afghanistan’s unknown “enemies”.

“Everyone is still afraid now, but they don’t know who to fear,” said Hussaini’s cousin, Sayed Yakub, as he sat in a carpeted room with a dozen men and played the rosary. “These aggressors have no humanity, so they cannot be Muslims. Ever since the international community broke up, the people here have been struggling for survival. What is gained from bringing such violence now?”

The school hit by the bombings, Abdul Rahman Shahid, was the biggest target – one of the largest in the capital, with 16,000 students studying four shifts a day, and under the strict Taliban rules, the female students were separated from the boys. It was known for its high academic standards and record numbers of students who scored high on college entrance exams.

Some relatives of the murdered students questioned whether the attackers chose the exact time when most senior students—those who went to higher education or careers earliest—left each day from the high-walled campus. Friends of Alizada, who studied science and computer programming, said she would set an example for other young Hazaras.

“The Taliban don’t want us to compete with them,” said a friend at the mourning ceremony, a technologist who lost his job after the Taliban took over. “They don’t want people in our community to learn and have a good future. »

Over the past seven years, ISIS has been accused of dozens of bombings and gun attacks on mosques, shrines, schools, sports facilities, cultural centers, voter registration, religious holidays and political rallies. The group sees Shiites as apostates.

In the sprawling community of several hundred thousand people, everyone seemed to know someone who was killed in a terrorist attack in recent years. Several parents of injured students at Shahid School had lost a son or daughter in attacks on schools or college preparatory training centers.

“Sometimes it’s too much to bear,” said Alizada’s father, Mohammad Hassan, who works as a cook, and said he lost an uncle in a bomb attack a few years ago. He was at work when the school attack happened on Tuesday and spent hours looking for his eldest son. Finally, as she wandered into the emergency room of a chaotic hospital, she recognized his corpse in the cold drawer.

“He was very smart and had a lot of dreams,” Hassan said, crying and burying his face in his hands as he spoke.

The Shahid school bombings bore a grim resemblance to the last major attack on the Hazara community. In May, at Sayed ul Shahda School, twin bombs exploded outside the school as upper-class girls were leaving the campus. More than 90 people died, mostly young girls.

As grief, fear and doubt gripped Dasht-i-Barchi this week, a universal demand was clear: Now that the Taliban has officially taken over responsibility for public safety, many have said news officials must protect the Hazara community.

“This is their business now and they have to do better to keep us safe,” said one of Alizada’s home mourners. “If they don’t, we’ll have to find a way to protect ourselves.”