A blast close to a secondary school in the Afghan capital Kabul has left at least 30 people dead and dozens more injured, officials have said.
The bombing, apparently aimed to cause maximum civilian carnage, adds to fears that violence in the war-wrecked country could escalate as the US and NATO end nearly 20 years of military engagement.
While no one has claimed responsibility for the bombing, the Afghan Islamic State affiliate has targeted the Shiite neighborhood before.
The radical Sunni Muslim group has declared war on Afghanistan’s minority Shiite Muslims. Washington blamed IS for a vicious attack last year in a maternity hospital in the same area that killed pregnant women and newborn babies.
In Dasht-e-Barchi, angry crowds attacked the ambulances and even beat health workers as they tried to evacuate the wounded, Health Ministry spokesman Ghulam Dastigar Nazari said. He implored residents to cooperate and allow ambulances free access to the site.
Images circulating on social media purportedly showed bloodied school backpacks and books strewn across the street in front if the school, and smoke rising above the neighborhood.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters in a message that only the Islamic State group could be responsible for such a heinous crime. Mujahid also accused Afghanistan’s intelligence agency of being complicit with IS, although he offered no evidence.
The Taliban and the Afghan government have traded accusations over a series of targeted killings of civil society workers, journalists and Afghan professionals. While IS has taken responsibility for some of those killings, many have gone unclaimed.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a statement condemning the attack, blaming the Taliban even as they denied it. He offered no proof.
IS has previously claimed attacks against minority Shiites in the same area, last year claiming two brutal attacks on education facilities that killed 50 people, most of them students.
The attack comes days after the remaining 2,500 to 3,500 American troops officially began leaving the country. They will be out by Sept. 11 at the latest. The pullout comes amid a resurgent Taliban, who control or hold sway over half of Afghanistan.