KABUL – Their grief quickly turned into powerless rage.
All but 7 or 8 of the 58 killed in Saturday’s attacks in Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood were schoolgirls returning home after completing their studies and on Sunday the anger was undeniable, as was the fear of further attacks.
“They were our family, our friends. More importantly, they were our blood, our people, ”a woman told NBC News at the scene of the blasts, where she had gathered after a funeral held in accordance with Islamic law, which requires burials to take place on as soon as possible. She said she did not want to give her name for fear of reprisal.
As the crowd grew, some shed tears, others accused the government of failing to protect the neighborhood, which is mainly made up of members of the Shiite Hazara community, frequently targeted by the Islamic State and other Sunni militant groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“We told them so many times that something was going to happen, but we never received help from the authorities,” said Hussain Ali, 25, who lost his cousin Tayeba, 16, in the attack. His sister Kobra, 17, was also seriously injured, he said.
He added that people had warned authorities of a potential attack but did not send adequate protection. Local officials were not immediately available for comment.
Many feared further attacks as US and NATO troops continue to leave the country on a mission to complete the withdrawal by September 11. The withdrawal has already seen an upsurge in fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban insurgents as the two sides attempt to maintain control over strategic centers.
Others like Amir, 34, denounced the nature of the explosions which he said were intended to cause “maximum carnage”.
After a car bomb exploded in front of Sayed Al-Shuhada’s school, two more bombs exploded when students panicked while running.
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“They know people will rush to the scene of every bomb, they just wanted to create crowd after crowd,” Amir said.
“There was thick black smoke. You couldn’t look in any direction without seeing part of the body, ”added Zolaikha, a mother whose home is only a few meters from the school.
Both said they were too afraid of retaliation to give their last names.
In the chaos that followed the attack, Abdul Husseini said people started smashing the windows of the ambulance that was transporting his 12-year-old daughter Zahra to hospital.
“Both of my daughter’s legs were badly injured and burned, but no one outside seemed to care,” he said.
As the crowd grew, so did the anger, which was largely aimed at the country’s government and security forces. Many have spoken of the previous attacks in the neighborhood.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack, although Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was quick to blame the Taliban insurgents who, he said in a tweet, had “once again shown their refusal to resolve the crisis in a peaceful and fundamental way by intensifying illegitimate war ”.
But Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesperson for the Taliban, denied the group was involved. In a tweet, he said he condemned any attack on Afghan civilians and instead accused militants linked to the Islamic State of being responsible for the attack.
Their words meant little to those in mourning at Dasht-e-Barchi, some of whom were still collecting bodies from the morgues. Other families were still searching for missing relatives on Sunday, gathering outside hospitals to read names posted on walls and check mortuaries.
“How long should we stay silent and let them kill us,” yelled a gray-haired, turban-clad old man as people crowded. He wouldn’t give his name. “Stand up for yourself, we have to stand up for ourselves,” he added.