UN condemns bomb attacks on schools in Afghanistan
By Robin Gomes
The United Nations has condemned the deadly bomb blasts on Tuesday at two educational institutions in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, which killed at least 6 people and wounded nearly 20 others.
The explosions took place at the all-boys Abdul Rahim Shahid high school and the Mumtaz Education Centre several kilometres away, both located in the Dasht-e-Barchi area, a predominantly Hazara Shiite Muslim neighbourhood in western Kabul.
The attack at the Abdul Rahim Shahid high school reportedly occurred as students were coming out of their morning classes, according to the UN in Afghanistan. The blasts at the Mumtaz Education Centre followed shortly afterwards.
Against international humanitarian law
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has denounced the bombings. "Attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, including schools, are strictly prohibited under international humanitarian law," UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told journalists in New York on Tuesday.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) took to Twitter to unequivocally condemn the “heinous” attacks.
“Those responsible for the crime targeting schools and children must be brought to justice,” UNAMA said, noting that Mission Chief Deborah Lyons has extended her deepest sympathies to the families of the victims, and her wishes for a speedy recovery for the wounded.
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, also joined Lyons in extending condolences to the bereaved families. “Afghanistan’s ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity is at great risk. It must be respected and kept safe,” Grandi said in a tweet.
The number of bomb blasts in the impoverished strife-torn country has significantly declined since the Taliban ousted the US-backed Afghan government in August, but the jihadist Islamic State (IS) group that still continues to operate in Afghanistan, has claimed several attacks since then. No one has thus far claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attacks.
Kabul police spokesman Khalid Zadran told AFP that the blasts were caused by improvised explosive devices. A witness said they were set off as students were coming out of their morning classes.
Grisly images posted on social media networks showed several bodies lying at the gate and compound of the boys’ school. Images showed patches of blood, burnt books, and school bags scattered at the premises.
The so-called Islamic State has presented the biggest security challenge to the country’s Taliban rulers.
Grave rights violation
The chief of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), Catherine Russell, also condemned the attacks on Kabul’s schools, expressing fear that the number of casualties could rise.
She appealed to all parties to protect boys and girls at all times. “Attacks on children and education facilities constitute grave rights violations," Russell said in a statement. "Schools are more than places of learning; they should be havens of protection and peace."
Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, strongly condemned the “horrific” attacks. “Violence in or around schools is never acceptable. For the people of Afghanistan, already beleaguered by forty years of war, schools should be safe havens, and places where children can learn and flourish,” he said in a statement.
Alakbarov underlined that attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, including schools, are strictly prohibited under international humanitarian law.
Perpetrators must be held to account
UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennet, also condemned the attacks. “Attacks on schools and children are despicable, they must be investigated and those responsible must be held to account in line with international norms and standards,” he tweeted.
Save the Children in Afghanistan also issued a statement "strongly condemning" the attack and saying "no school should be deliberately targeted, and no child should fear physical harm at or on the way to school."