On Saturday May 8th, a high school in Afghanistan’s capital was targeted in a terrorist attack that claimed the lives of more than 85 students and injured twice as much, most of them girls. The incident took the form of a car bomb as well as two other explosives placed in strategic areas of the district. The victims of the bombing were mostly between the age of 11 and 15 years old. At the time of the attack, the city was lively with Ramadan coming to an end and followers were preparing to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the holy month. In the days following the tragedy, civilians proceeded to bury the bodies of the young victims.
The school is located in Dasht-e-Barchi, a region that has been subjected to multiple previous instances of Sunni Islamist terrorist attacks targeting minority Shiites. The area houses a portion of the Hazara, a Shiite ethnic minority of Afghanistan that has often been targeted by the Islamic State (IS).
It remains unclear what group is responsible for carrying the attack as well as its motive, although the Afghan government has accused the Taliban who had targeted young girls in the past in a statement against women’s education. Yet, the Taliban have denied being involved in the attack.
In recent years, the IS has lost most of its territory in Afghanistan despite still carrying out terrorist attacks in Kabul or Jalalabad.
US withdrawal of troops
Last month, Biden declared the US would withdraw troops from Afghanistan by September 2021, marking the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Since then, there has been an escalation of violence, compelling the US to deploy more forces into Afghanistan in order to protect American troops and coalition forces getting out of the country.
Some believe the attack on May 8th could be a presage of the suffering that Afghans might incur in the absence of US forces in the country. US military officers have even warned Afghan government forces of the possibility of further escalation in violence as more US troops leave the country. Others have criticized the US disengagement’s timing by arguing that it could facilitate a power grab by the Taliban, one that could severely impede on the country’s future.