A bomb exploded near a school in a Shia neighborhood in western Kabul on Saturday, killing at least 25 people, including many young students, Afghan government spokesmen said. The Taliban condemned the attack apparently directed against civilians and denied any responsibility.
Ambulances rushed to evacuate injured people from the site of the explosion near the Syed Al-Shahda school, in the majority Shia district of Dasht-e-Barchi, Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said.
Angry crowds attacked the ambulances and even beat health workers, Health Ministry spokesman Ghulam Dastigar Nazari said. He implored residents to cooperate and to give ambulances free access to the site.
Images circulating on social media reportedly showed smoke rising above the neighborhood.
At a nearby hospital, Associated Press journalists saw at least 20 dead bodies lined up in hallways and rooms, with dozens injured and families of victims passing through the facility.
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Outside Muhammad Ali Jinnah Hospital, dozens of people lined up to donate blood, while family members checked victim lists on the walls.
Both Arian and Nazari said at least 50 people were also injured and the casualty rate could rise. The attack took place just as fast day was drawing to a close.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, and Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters in a report that only the Islamic State group could be responsible for such a heinous crime.
The extremist group has previously carried out attacks on minority Shias in the same area, last year they claimed two brutal attacks on educational facilities that killed 50 people, most of them students.
Even as IS in Afghanistan has been downgraded, it has stepped up attacks, particularly against Shia Muslims and female workers, according to government and US officials.
Previously, the group assumed responsibility for the targeted murder of three female media personnel in eastern Afghanistan.
The attack comes days after the remaining 2,500 to 3,500 US troops officially began leaving the country. They will be released no later than September 11. The pullout comes amid a resurgent Taliban, who control or hold half of Afghanistan.
The US top military officer said on Sunday that Afghan government forces face an uncertain future and potentially “bad possible outcomes” against Taliban insurgents as the pullout accelerates in the coming weeks.