Asia

Kabul suicide bomber attacks French school during show

  • 11 December 2014
  • From the section Asia
Media captionEyewitness Samira Sadat told BBC World that she initially thought the commotion was part of a show

A suicide bomber has attacked a French-run school in the Afghan capital Kabul, killing several people during a show, French officials say.

At least 15 people were injured in the attack at the Istiqlal school, home to the French Cultural Centre.

Video footage showed chaos inside the packed auditorium after the explosion.

Earlier, at least six Afghan soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber on the outskirts of Kabul - part of a string of attacks by the Taliban.

The militants also said they were behind the attack on the school, describing the performance as an insult to Islamic values.

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge in Kabul says it appears the Taliban are trying to undermine confidence in the new government and the security forces as US and Nato combat troops prepare to leave Afghanistan.

Thursday's explosion at the French school occurred during the performance of play of called Heartbeat: Silence After the Explosion - a condemnation of suicide attacks.

Witnesses said it happened at the back of the auditorium near TV cameras and journalists covering the event.

"I firmly condemn this terrorist act which caused the death of several people and left many injured. There were no French victims," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement.

He described the attack as a "barbaric act" and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption At least 15 people were wounded in the attack on the school

Mr Fabius said crisis units had been set up in Kabul and France to investigate the incident.

President Francois Hollande also condemned the attack.

Speaking earlier, acting Afghan interior minister Mohammad Ayoub Salangi would only confirm that one person had been killed - a German national. The German foreign ministry said it could not confirm the report although it condemned the "cowardly attack".

Aftermath

Kabul's new police chief, Abdul Rahman Rahimi, told reporters that the suicide bomber was a teenager.

A witness who said he was no more than 5m (49ft) from the explosion, said the blast came about 20 minutes into the performance.

About 500 people were in the auditorium and security was very tight, he added.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The school was quickly sealed off after the suicide attack

Another witness, Samira Sadat, told the BBC that the blast initially seemed like part of the performance. As she was leaving the building, she said she passed a man with severe facial injuries.

Among the wounded was Naser Sarmast, a renowned musician and head of the Musicians' Institute of Afghanistan.

"I was watching the drama, my students were performing music, I heard a blast and fell down," he told AP news agency.

"I thought it was part of the drama until I touched my head and saw that it was bleeding and I fell down again."

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, quoted by Reuters, said the event was targeted because it was staged "to insult Islamic values and spread propaganda about our jihad operations, especially on suicide attacks".

The Taliban have recently stepped up attacks as most foreign combat troops prepare to leave the country later this month.

The school - one of the most prestigious in Afghanistan - was inaugurated in 1974 with more than 2,000 students.

It is in the heart of Kabul, close to the presidential palace and the foreign ministry.

The attached French Cultural Centre was forced to close between 1983 and 2002 when Afghanistan was engulfed by conflict, but it reopened in 2003 and was revamped in 2010.

Last month, Kabul's police chief resigned following a surge in attacks by Afghan militants on foreigners in the city.

President Ashraf Ghani, who took power in September, has vowed to bring peace after decades of conflict.