KABUL: The death toll of a suicide bombing on a Kabul classroom has risen to 35, the UN said Saturday, as Shiite Hazara women who bore the brunt of the attack staged a defiant protest against the “genocide” of their minority community.
On Friday a suicide attacker blew himself up in a Kabul study hall as hundreds of pupils were taking tests in preparation for university entrance exams in the city’s Dasht-e-Barchi area.
The western neighbourhood is a predominantly Shiite enclave and home to the minority Hazara community.
“The latest casualty figures from the attack number at least 35 fatalities, with an additional 82 wounded,” the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a statement.
The UN mission’s casualty figure is much higher than the death toll Kabul police have given - they said 20 people were killed and 27 wounded in the assault on the Kaaj Higher Educational Centre.
Meanwhile on Saturday dozens of Hazara women defied a Taliban ban on rallies to protest the latest bloodshed in their community.
Around 50 women chanted, “Stop Hazara genocide, it’s not a crime to be a Shiite”, as they marched past a hospital in Dasht-e-Barchi where several victims of the attack were being treated.
Dressed in black hijabs and headscarves, the protesters carried banners that read: “Stop killing Hazaras”, an AFP correspondent reported.
Witnesses have told AFP that the suicide attacker detonated in the women’s section of the gender-segregated study hall.
“Yesterday’s attack was against the Hazaras and Hazara girls,” protester Farzana Ahmadi, 19, told AFP.
“We demand a stop to this genocide. We staged the protest to demand our rights.”
Protesters later gathered in front of the hospital and chanted slogans as dozens of heavily armed Taliban, some carrying rocket-propelled-grenade launchers, kept watch.