'My sister had so many dreams, now she is buried': Kabul mourns after blasts kill nearly 70 schoolgirls

·3 min read
Men carry the coffins of victim up to a hillside graveyard above Kabul for a mass burial - REUTERS 
Men carry the coffins of victim up to a hillside graveyard above Kabul for a mass burial - REUTERS

Body after body, coffin after coffin, the weeping crowds carried them up to the graveyard.

The dead from three blasts that tore through crowds of mostly teenage girls as they left school on Saturday were so numerous that gravediggers had to set aside a separate corner of the cemetery to hold them.

The new area, on a hillside overlooking the Afghan capital Kabul, received 45 bodies on Sunday. It has been called the graveyard of education martyrs.

By Sunday night, the overall death toll from the blasts outside Sayed ul-Shuhada High School in the western Kabul neighbourhood of Dasht-e-Barchi was around 70, with more than 160 wounded.

The vast majority were reported to be teenagers. Many were so badly disfigured by the blast that their families struggled to identify them.

When Rahmatullah Rafat first heard on Saturday that there had been a blast at the school, he immediately thought of his 17-year-old sister, Adela, who studied there.

“There was no news about Adela. Every minute that passed without knowing about Adela, my fears grew about losing her,” he told the Telegraph.

The family rushed to the school, but could not find her.

“My brothers and sisters searched for Adela in many hospitals and finally found a dead body that looked like hers. They were not sure. Her body was unrecognizable,” he said.

“One of my sisters said that Adela had a scratch on her eyebrow. They found the scratch on her eyebrow.

“Adela had so many dreams. When I think of her and her dreams, my heart aches and burns. Now she is buried under ground with her dreams and left us behind with broken hearts.”

Mandatory Credit: Photo by HEDAYATULLAH AMID/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (11895684h) Afghan people keeps watch the belongings of the victims as the bloodstained books and notebooks of students are seen on the ground at the scene of a bomb explosion that targeted a school in the west of Kabul, Afghanistan, 09 May 2021.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by HEDAYATULLAH AMID/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (11895684h) Afghan people keeps watch the belongings of the victims as the bloodstained books and notebooks of students are seen on the ground at the scene of a bomb explosion that targeted a school in the west of Kabul, Afghanistan, 09 May 2021.

Officials said a car bomb was detonated near the school as students left classes. Minutes later two other bombs struck.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Ashraf Ghani, the president, blamed Taliban insurgents, but the militant group denied involvement and said it was the Islamic State group.

A man cries over the body of one of the victims of the deadly bombings - Mariam Zuhaib /AP
A man cries over the body of one of the victims of the deadly bombings - Mariam Zuhaib /AP

Ali Nasir, said he had lost a young relative called Marina Hakimi, also aged 17.

“We searched each nearby hospital for Marina. In the initial hours, people had taken Marina to a hospital. We could not find her among wounded people,” he said.

“We found Marina at the children’s hospital. Even her brother did not recognise her because her body was too badly damaged.”

Men carry the coffin of one of the victims of yesterday's explosion during a mass burial ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan May 9, 2021. 
Men carry the coffin of one of the victims of yesterday's explosion during a mass burial ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan May 9, 2021.

The funerals took place amid angry recriminations against both the government and its international backers for failing to protect Afghans or put an end to the violence.

Dasht-e-Barchi has been hit by a string of attacks targeting the country's minority Shia community, with most claimed by the local branch of Islamic State group.

In the same neighbourhood in 2018, a school bombing killed 34 people, mostly students.

In September 2018 a wrestling club was attacked, killing 24 people. In May 2020, a maternity hospital was brutally attacked, killing 24 people including pregnant women and infants. And in October 2020, the Kawsar-e-Danish tutoring center was attacked, killing 30 people.