Afghanistan: A suicide attack at a tuition center in the Afghanistan capital Kabul has killed at least 19 people, most of them female students, the police and witnesses say.
Almost 30 others were wounded at the Kaaj education center in the Dasht-e-Barchi area in the west of the city.
Students had been sitting a practical university exam when the bomber hit. No group has claimed the attack yet.
Many of those in the area are minority Hazaras, who have been often targeted by Islamic State (IS) militants.
Footage on local TV and shared on social media appeared to show scenes from a nearby hospital, where lines of covered bodies were laid out on the floor. Other media reported from the site of the private college showed rubble and upset tables in the damaged classrooms.
“We didn’t find her here,” a woman who was looking for her sister at one of the hospitals told the AFP news agency. She was 19 years old.
The attacker is reported to have shot the guards outside the center, entered a classroom and detonated a bomb.
Eyewitnesses told the World News Agency that most of the victims were girls – they were sitting in the front row, near the blast. A student who was wounded told AFP that there were around 600 people in the room when the attack occurred.
The Kaaj tuition center is a private college that teaches both male and female students. Most girls’ schools in the country have been closed since the Taliban returned to power in August last year, but some private schools have been opened.
The Hazaras, most of whom are Shia Muslims, are Afghanistan’s third largest ethnic group. They have long faced persecution from the regional affiliate of Islamic State (ISKP) and the Taliban, which both adhere to Sunni Islam.
On Friday, the Taliban’s interior ministry spokesperson said security teams were at the site and condemned the attack.
Abdul Nafy Takor said that attacking civilian targets “proves the enemy’s inhuman cruelty and lack of moral standards”.
The attack was also condemned strongly by the United Nations and the US.
“Targeting a room full of students taking exams is shameful; all students should be able to pursue their education in peace and without fear,” said Karen Decker, charge d’affaires at the US mission to Afghanistan, in a tweet.
The security situation in Afghanistan, which had improved after the end of the fighting following the Taliban takeover, has been deteriorating in recent months, with a number of attacks on civilians but also Taliban supporters. Some have been claimed by the IS, which is a bitter rival of the Taliban.
Schools and hospitals have been targeted in the Dasht-e-Barchi area in a series of attacks, most of which are believed to have been the work of IS.
Last year – before the Taliban returned to power – a bomb attack on a girls school in Dasht-e-Barchi killed at least 85 people, mainly students, and injured hundreds more.