By Baber Khan Sael
Kabul, May 11 (EFE).- Afghanistan on Tuesday observed a day of national mourning for the 85 victims, most of them young girls, of an attack on a girls’ school in Kabul on Saturday, ahead of a three-day Eid ceasefire with the Taliban.
Top government officials gathered in the presidential palace to honor the victims of the attack – in which 147 civilians were injured – in the presence of families of some of the deceased students.
The victims of a car bombing in the eastern Logar province on Apr. 30 – in which 24 people including 16 children were killed and 110 injured – were also mourned during the day.
“Participants offered Fatiha (prayers) and held recitation of the Holy Koran to pray for the souls of the martyrs,” the presidential palace said in a statement.
Similar ceremonies were organized in different Afghan institutions across the country and abroad, while the national flag was lowered to half mast.
The attack took place on Saturday afternoon in western Kabul outside the Sayed-ul-Shuhada girls’ school, with assailants detonating a car bomb and two IEDs near the building.
The district is mainly inhabited by the minority Shiite Hazara community, which has often been targeted in Islamist violence.
Although the attack has not been claimed yet, it is being attributed to the Islamic State terror group, which has often claimed responsibility for attacks against Hazaras, a community it considers apostates.
Despite the attack, students of the school returned to classrooms on Monday.
“Such attacks have a negative impact on schools and the education sector but we witnessed two days after the attack that the students returned to their classes. This shows the strong determination and resolve of our students,” Afghan education ministry spokesperson Najiba Arian told EFE.
The spokesperson of the second vice-president, Muhammad Hedayat, told EFE that a security plan for the Hazara-dominated western Kabul will be put in place soon, although admitting that similar plans had not been implemented earlier.
The attack comes amid a surge in attacks in urban areas over the past year, after the historic Doha peace agreement signed between the United States and the Taliban in February 2020.
These mainly came in the form of targeted shootings or sticky bomb attacks on victims’ cars, often targeting academicians, journalists, activists, politicians and members of the security forces.
The violence surged even further over the last 10 days after the Taliban accused Washington of violating the original troop withdrawal deadline – as per the Doha deal – of May 1, which has been postponed to Sep. 11 by the US administration
However, the Taliban on Monday declared a unilateral three-day ceasefire to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan this week – the festival of Eid al-Fitr – starting either Wednesday or Thursday.
The Afghan government reciprocated the measure, but urged Taliban to agree to a permanent ceasefire in order to accelerate the intra-Afgan peace process, which has been stuck after kicking off in Doha in September.
However, the Taliban have rejected the possibility.
“Our fight is not against the people, we will not make a ceasefire and can’t extend the ceasefire until we achieve our goal, which is establishment of an Islamic government, we can’t stop and abandon our war unfinished,” principal Afghan spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told EFE. EFE