AGENCIES | Kabul – At least 60 Afghans and 12 U.S. service members were killed at the Kabul airport Thursday when two blasts ripped through crowds trying to enter the American-controlled facility, disrupting the final push of the U.S.-led evacuation effort.
A suicide bomb attack at the airport’s Abbey Gate was followed by an assault by gunmen, officials said. Another bomb attack took place nearby, at a hotel outside the airport, officials said. Fifteen U.S. service members were injured, the Pentagon said.
Blasts close to a secondary school in the Afghan capital Kabul have left at least 60 people dead and more than 100 injured, officials say.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement about the bombing that claimed the lives of 12 U.S. service members in Kabul while issuing a warning to lawmakers not to travel to Afghanistan.
“Today, we suffered the loss of life of at least twelve U.S. servicemembers and dozens of civilians from the terrorist attack outside of the Kabul airport,” Pelosi said. “We mourn the loss of every innocent life taken, and we join every American in heartbreak over the deaths of the Americans and all killed.”
The explosions took place as students were leaving the building on Saturday, with pictures on social media showing abandoned school bags in the street.
Most of the victims were girls, a ministry of education spokeswoman said.
No one has admitted carrying out the attack in Dasht-e-Barchi – an area often hit by Sunni Islamist militants.
Afghan government officials blamed Taliban militants for the attack, but the group denied any involvement.
The explosions are believed to have been caused by a car bomb and two improvised explosive devices planted in the area.
The neighbourhood in western Kabul is home to many from the Hazara minority community, who are of Mongolian and Central Asian descent and are mainly Shia Muslims.
Almost exactly a year ago, a maternity unit at the local hospital was attacked, leaving 24 women, children and babies dead.
The exact target for Saturday’s bloodshed is unclear.
The blasts come against a backdrop of rising violence as the US looks to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by 11 September.
Reports from Kabul say the city was busy with shoppers ahead of this year’s celebrations for Eid al-Fitr next week.
Students were also streaming from the school. Najiba Arian, ministry of education spokeswoman, told Reuters news agency the government-run school was open to boys and girls.
Most of those hurt were girls, who study in the second of three sessions, according to Ms Arian.
Several witnesses described hearing three separate explosions, while one woman told AFP news agency she had seen “many bloodied bodies in dust and smoke”.
“I saw a woman checking the bodies and calling for her daughter,” the woman, Reza, said. “She then found her daughter’s bloodstained purse after which she fainted and fell to the ground.”
The US state department condemned “the barbarous attack”.
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“We call for an immediate end to violence and the senseless targeting of innocent civilians,” it said.
The European Union’s mission in Afghanistan said on Twitter that “targeting primarily students in a girls’ school, makes this an attack on the future of Afghanistan”.