Kabul, Afghanistan – As the sun sets, Latifah is busy preparing a meal for her family when she hears a loud bang in the sky.
The noise shocked her two daughters, nine and six, who had just returned from school in the morning. The 28-year-old tried to calm them down I ran to the window to see what had happened. He feared the worst, as Dasht-e-Barchi, a Shia region in Kabul where he lives, had been threatened by ISIL (ISIS) militants in recent years.
By the time he got to the window, he heard another explosion – it seemed to be getting closer than the last one. Then came a very loud noise. The approach of all the explosions terrified him. Her simple mud house was a few hundred yards from Syed Al-Shuhada school, a girls’ school where high school classes are just released.
Looking out his window, he saw people running to help the wounded and killed as well as the rising smoke, and explained to him: “if Judgment Day has come”.
The death toll has now risen to 58, including schoolgirls, and more than 100 others have been injured.
“My heart sank. What danger can young girls bring to anyone, “she asked, sitting a few meters away from a pile of abandoned textbooks, notes, shoes and bags piled up by residents as a sign of what Saturday afternoon’s bomb explodes: the purpose of education.
By Sunday morning, the frustration had subsided.
Twelve hours after Saturday 4:30 pm, no group, including the Taliban, claimed responsibility. This was the second attack on Afghan students in a matter of weeks. Saturday’s blast was triggered by an April 30 bomb near a guest house where students live in the Eastern Province of Logar. The attack was never reported again.
The government has criticized the lack of security
Al Jazeera residents who spoke to them on Sunday said the government had done nothing to protect Dasht-e-Barchi, despite knowing that they had been repeatedly harassed by militants who claimed to be loyal to ISIL.
Mohammad Ehsan Haidari, who was attending a meeting near the site of the explosion, said he was disappointed by the delay in the response of the police and Intelligence officers.
“I called the police at 4:33 pm, he said he knew what was going on and would send vehicles soon.”
Hidari and others in the area said it took an hour for officials to arrive at the scene.
He did not wait for the police, rushed to the scene of the blast, believed to be an explosive device (IED), and hurriedly took one of the injured girls to a nearby hospital. He said he saw five bodies – three girls, an elderly man and a teenager.
“He lay on the ground unconscious; he could not have been older than 14 years. I grabbed him and threw my car, “the 26-year-old told Al Jazeera.
However, another explosion occurred – on both sides of the school and on the road to it – and with a crowd rushing to help those affected, driving the dusty road to the highway was difficult.
“The crowds just keep growing, everyone takes everyone who can to their home or hospital,” Haidari said. All the while, he and others said police, as well as an ambulance, arrived late.
Residents say the car with the booby, which is said to be the last explosion, had been parked outside the school for several hours.
The worst thing, citizens say, is that two police headquarters were within a mile of school.
Commander Naser Naderi from the 13 police headquarters defended the police response. “The Police Force does its job as best it can.”
When the police, intellectuals and ambulances arrived, there was a commotion.
A 20-year-old man, who did not want to be named, said he had tried to prevent people from smashing ambulance windows, telling them to go to the police and spies.
Enlightenment of Hazaras
Some in the crowd blamed the attack on Hazara, a long-running opposition group in Afghanistan, to the point of destroying President Ashraf Ghani himself for years.
“Why were they not children of Ghani, there is no such thing,” she said, speaking of the protests that many Afghan children do not live in.
Latifah, the mother of two young girls, said everyone involved in the attack had reached their goal – to prevent children from going to school.
“My girls cried all night long, waking up saying, ‘Don’t send us to school, school and where you die.”
Mirwais, an independent electrician, came to the Emergency Hospital at the commercial center in Kabul to donate blood. The 36-year-old was one of at least 100 people who came in all day on Sunday after reading about the plasma shortage on Facebook.
He also said that “enemies of international unity in Afghanistan” were to be targeted, but believed that the government could not excuse itself from other crimes.
Mirwais said that in the face of current instability in peace talks and the departure of foreign troops in September, government officials “are busy with their own affairs and actions, not concerned about the Afghan people, they are just in charge.”
“With some of the poorest people in Barchi, living a simple life, they still see what they have to go through because no one is listening,” he told Al Jazeera.
He also criticized the existing politicians, that most of their families are abroad. “What do they care, their children are not there and when things get worse they can just come out with their second passports themselves.”
Many residents, including those who began chanting slogans against the government and the security forces, declined to give their names to the media, a testament to their realization that their area was always in danger, especially by ISIL loyal forces, which also met with Ashoura memorials and student organizations mostly from Kabul in Hazara.
Saturday’s bombings came just days after a year-long attack on a nearby restaurant that left at least 24 people, including new women, dead.
Many of the young people who gathered thought that if the government could not protect them: “We will protect ourselves.”
However, with warnings of a civil war coming after the withdrawal of Sept. 11 of US-led foreign troops, this prospect could scare away Afghan officials, who are already tired of the militias appearing in the country in the 1990’s civil war.
Latifah says young people will continue to pay as long as they take steps to get Dasht-e-Barchi.
“Yesterday, it was a lesson that died in Afghanistan.”