UN says Afghanistan classroom bombing death toll jumps to 53

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Forty-six girls and young women were among those killed in a suicide bombing on an Afghan education center last week, the UN said Monday as it announced the total death toll had risen to 53.

A suicide bomber blew himself up next to women at a gender-segregated study hall in a Kabul neighborhood on Friday, home to the historically oppressed Shia Muslim Hazara community.

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“Our human rights team continues documenting the crime: verifying facts & establishing reliable data to counter denial & revisionism,” the United Nations assistance mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) tweeted.

It raised the death toll from 43 to 53, adding that a further 110 had been wounded.

The bomber detonated as hundreds of students were sitting a practice test ahead of an entrance exam for university admissions.

No group has so far claimed responsibility, but ISIS which considers Shia as heretics has carried out several deadly attacks in the area targeting girls, schools and mosques.

The Taliban authorities have so far said 25 people were killed and 33 others were wounded in the attack.

The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan last year brought an end to a two-decade war against the Western-backed government, and led to a significant reduction in violence, but security has begun to deteriorate in recent months.

The extremist hardliners, accused of failing to protect minorities, have often tried to downplay attacks challenging their regime.

Friday’s attack triggered sporadic women-led protests in Kabul and some other cities.

Around 50 women chanted, “Stop Hazara genocide, it’s not a crime to be a Shia,” as they marched on Saturday in Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood where the attack happened.

The rallies have been dispersed by Taliban forces often firing shots into the air and beating protesters.

Afghanistan’s Hazaras have faced persecution for decades, targeted by the Taliban during their insurgency against the former US-backed government and by ISIS – both of which consider Shia heretics.

In May last year, before the Taliban’s return to power, at least 85 people – mainly girls – were killed and about 300 were wounded when three bombs exploded near their school in Dasht-e-Barchi.

Again, no group claimed responsibility, but a year earlier ISIS claimed a suicide attack on an educational center in the same area that killed 24.

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