On the evening of Saturday, October 24th, 24 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack at an education centre in Kabul. In total, 57 people, including several teenagers, were wounded after the attacker detonated explosives. Many of the victims were claimed to be students between the ages 15 and 26, according to the Afghanistan health ministry. The event occurred at a sensitive time, as the Taliban and the Afghan government are currently engaging in peace talks in order to end the long time war in the region.
Ali Reza, a civilian who witnessed the attack from nearby, stated that the blast threw him off his feet. In an interview given to Al Jazeera, he said, “I was standing about 100 metres (328 feet) from the centre when a big blast knocked me down,” and added that “Dust and smoke were all around me. All those killed and wounded were students who wanted to enter the centre.”
The attack took place at the Kawsar-e Danish education centre located in the west area of the capital in Afghanistan, which is home for several people in the Shia community, a religious minority group that has been affected by the Islamic State in the past. On early Sunday morning, the U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, urged for an instant reduction in violence in the region and called for the ongoing peace talks in Qatar to accelerate.
NATO and the Afghan government condemned the attack on civilians, and a Taliban spokesman denied any kind of involvement. The Islamic State asserted responsibility for the suicide bombing in a declaration on Telegram, without any demonstrated evidence. According to Reuters, a teacher at the Kawsar-e Danish centre, who asked not to be identified for safety reasons, stated that he and other instructors were in shock after the attack, considering that it targeted an institution which had provided tutoring to thousands of children in order to open up opportunities for higher education. “All the students were full of energy, belonging to poor families but hoping for a brighter future,” he said.
The event on Saturday is one of many attacks that have injured and killed civilians in the country. As peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government are currently taking place in Qatar in order to end this long history of violence, the suicide bombing complicates the situation even further. It poses a threat towards the possibility of successful talks and cooperation between both parts. To reach long term, sustainable peace in Afghanistan, members of both sides at the negotiation table in Qatar must speed up the process and condemn violent actions for future reference.
Following the attack on Saturday, family members were searching for loved ones among bags containing the remains of those who lost their lives. Moreover, with most victims in the suicide bombing being innocent students, measures must be taken immediately to prevent any potential attacks from reoccurring. Innocent human beings should not have to be exposed to the violence, and an agreement between both parties has never been so crucial.
The suicide bombing is not the first one to have targeted institutions of education and innocent teenagers. In August 2018, 48 people were killed when a suicide bomber detonated a device inside of a tuition facility while classes were being held, an attack in which the Islamic State claimed to be behind. Along with this, 24 women, children, and babies were killed in May when gunmen opened fire in a maternity ward at a hospital in Kabul. In February, the United States signed a peace agreement with the Taliban, opening up a pavement for removing American troops from the dispute and diplomatic meetings between the armed group and the Afghan government. However, despite ongoing peace talks, in recent weeks Afghanistan has experienced an increase in violence, which the Taliban is mostly responsible for.
A mutual agreement in the peace talks in Qatar is significant, in order to end the violent acts the country has experienced for many years. Too many innocent lives have been lost, and Afghanistan cannot lose this opportunity of establishing long term peace. “How much more can we endure, as individuals and as society? How many times can we rise?” asked Shaharzad Akbar, the chair of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission on Twitter, briefly after the bombing on Saturday, arguing that the targeting of civilians was a war crime.
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