Afghans fear return to violence after Kabul school attack – Reuters

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KABUL. One of the victims was the caretaker of the district mosque, a modest man of about 50, known for helping those in need. The other was a promising high school student who came second in his class and was studying for college entrance exams.

On Tuesday, minutes apart, both were dying on the same sidewalk, injured by two successive bomb blasts, in front of the walls of a large public school in Desht-e-Barchi, a busy working-class district that is the center of Kabul. Shia minority Hazaras.

Police said nine people died and 19 were injured on Tuesday. The six injured were in a separate explosion near a private tutoring center in the area. No group has claimed responsibility.

The oldest man, Syed Hussein Hussani, and the youngest, 18-year-old Milad Alizada, were buried after sunrise in simple earthen graves covered with rose petals and nameless stones. Then friends and relatives gathered at home for ritual prayers, tearful condolences and silent contemplation.

In all their minds as much as the loss of a loved one has been the same question: why is this still happening to us?

After years of frequent terrorist attacks against the Hazara community, mostly attributed to Sunni extremists linked to the Islamic State, a rare calm has reigned since August as the Sunni Taliban took power and promised to return the capital to security.

In the aftermath of the bombings, mourners and other residents of Desht-i-Barchi expressed a mixture of suspicion, frustration and vague conspiracy theories. Some said the Islamic State group, known locally as Daesh, took a breather during the change of power and wanted to once again demonstrate its strength. Some speculate that the Taliban are secretly behind the attacks, seeking to crush an ambitious rival group. Others were cautious, blaming it on the unknown “enemies” of Afghanistan.

“Now everyone is still scared, but they don’t know who to be afraid of,” said Syed Yacoub, Hussaini’s cousin, playing a rosary in a carpeted room with a dozen other men. “These attackers have no humanity, so they cannot be Muslims. After the departure of the international community, people here struggled for survival. What is the use of such violence now? »

The bombed-out Abdul Rahman Shahid School has become a major target – one of the largest in the capital, with 16,000 students studying in four shifts a day and girls separated from boys under strict Taliban rules. It was known for its high academic standards and a record number of students with high college entrance exam scores.

Some relatives of the slain students question whether the attackers deliberately chose the exact time when most senior students – the first to go to higher education or vocational training – leave the high-walled campus each day. Alizade’s friends, who studied science and computer programming, said he would be an example for other young Hazaras.

“The Taliban don’t want us to compete with them,” a friend, a technician who lost his job after the Taliban came to power, said at the funeral ceremony. “They don’t want people in our community to gain knowledge and have a good future. »

Over the past seven years, the Islamic State has been blamed for dozens of bombings and shelling of mosques, shrines, schools, sports facilities, cultural centers, voter registration, religious holidays and political rallies in the community. The group views Shia as apostates.

In a sprawling community of several hundred thousand, everyone seemed to know someone who had died in a terrorist attack in recent years. Several parents of injured Shaheed students have already lost a son or daughter in attacks on schools or college prep centers.

“Sometimes it’s unbearable,” said Alizada’s father, Mohammad Hassan, who works as a cook and said he lost his uncle in a bombing a few years ago. On Tuesday, when the school was attacked, he was at work looking for his eldest son for hours. Finally, wandering around the chaotic emergency room of the hospital, he recognized her body in the refrigerator.

“He was so smart and he had so many dreams,” Hassan said, crying and covering his face with his hands.

The Shahid school bombings bore an eerie resemblance to the last major attack on the Hazara community just over a year ago. In May, at Syed-ul-Shahd School, twin bombs exploded outside the school just as the girls from the senior class were leaving the campus. More than 90 people died, mostly teenage girls.

As grief, fear and suspicion engulfed Dasht-i-Barchi this week, one universal demand became clear: Now that the Taliban have officially taken public safety responsibility, many say news outlets must protect the Hazara community.

“Now it’s their job and they should do more to keep us safe,” said one of the mourners from Alizada’s home. “If they don’t, we’ll have to find a way to protect ourselves. »