The death toll from explosions outside a school in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul rose to 58 on Sunday, officials said, as friends and families mourned the loss of their loved ones.
The bombings on Saturday evening shook the neighborhood of Dasht-e-Barchi, which is inhabited by the ethnic Shia Hazara minority.
Over 150 people were also injured in back-to-back explosions in front of the Sayed Al-Shuhada school.
The explosions took place when students were leaving for home at around 4:30 p.m. (1200GMT) and most of the victims are young girls, Dr. Mir Wais, spokesperson for the Health Ministry, told Anadolu Agency.
Ali Khan, a witness who teaches at the school, told Anadolu Agency that the first explosion was a car bomb and then two rockets hit the school.
Videos circulating on social media showed utter carnage at the site as young schoolgirls splattered with blood were heard screaming for help.
“These girls were from very poor families, many of whom came from relegated communities in different provinces to Kabul in search of a better life and education opportunities,” said Mohammad Hussain, a Hazara community activist.
Sensing the magnitude of the devastation, many young Afghans thronged to hospitals to donate blood in a bid to save young lives.
The blasts come against a backdrop of rising violence as the US announced it will withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11.
Condemning the attack, the Afghan president pointed fingers toward the Taliban. “By escalating their illegitimate war and violence, the Taliban have once again shown that they are not only reluctant to resolve the current crisis … but are complicating the opportunity to sabotage the opportunity for peace,” said Ashraf Ghani.
The Taliban, however, rejected involvement and blamed the Afghan government for orchestrating the attack via Daesh/ISIS.
Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian told Anadolu Agency that the Taliban have not been taking responsibility for attacks with a large number of civilian casualties such as last week’s truck bombing that killed over 30 students in Logar province who were preparing for university entrance tests.
The attack has been widely condemned by the UN, EU, the US State Department, and NATO, among others.
Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “we strongly condemn this inhumane terrorist attack on the blessed Laylat-al Qadr, condemn its perpetrators and hope that they will be brought to justice.”
Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai posted about the “horrendous attack” on Twitter, urging world leaders to unite to safeguard schoolchildren.