At least 30 people have been killed and many more injured after a bomb exploded near a girls’ school in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Afghan capital Kabul.
Many of the victims were students between the ages of 11 and 15, an Afghan government spokesperson said.
The Taliban condemned the attack, apparently directed against civilians, and denied responsibility.
Ambulances rushed to evacuate the wounded from the scene of the explosion near the Syed Al-Shahda school, in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Dasht-e-Barchi, west of the city.
Residents said the explosion was deafening.
A local man told The Associated Press he heard three separate explosions, although there has been no official confirmation of multiple explosions.
Although no one claimed responsibility for the bombing, previous brutal attacks in the same area have been claimed by the Afghan affiliate of the so-called Islamic State (IS).
The radical Sunni Muslim group has declared war on Afghanistan’s Shia Muslim minority.
Washington blamed ISIS for a vicious attack last year on a maternity hospital in the same region that killed pregnant women and newborn babies.
In Dasht-e-Barchi, angry crowds attacked ambulances and even beat health workers as they tried to evacuate the injured, 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 showed bloody school backpacks and books strewn on the street outside the school, and smoke rising over the area.
In a nearby hospital, reporters saw at least 20 corpses lined up in hallways and rooms, with dozens of injured and families of victims crowding into the facility.
Outside Muhammad Ali Jinnah Hospital, dozens of people lined up to donate blood, as family members checked the casualty lists posted on the walls.
Officials said at least 50 people were also injured, and the death toll is feared to rise. The attack happened just at the end of the fasting day.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, and Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters in a message that only IS could be responsible for such a heinous crime.
The Taliban and the Afghan government have exchanged accusations over a series of targeted killings of Afghan civil society workers, journalists and professionals.
While ISIS has taken responsibility for some of these killings, many have not been claimed.
ISIS has previously claimed responsibility for attacks against the Shiite minority in the same region, claiming two brutal attacks on educational institutions last year that killed 50 people, most of them students.
Even though ISIS has worsened in Afghanistan, according to the US government and officials, it has stepped up its attacks, especially against Shia Muslims and working women.
Previously, the group had taken responsibility for the targeted assassination of three female media personnel in eastern Afghanistan.
The attack comes days after the remaining 2,500 to 3,500 US troops officially began to leave the country.
They will be released on September 11 at the latest. The withdrawal comes amid a resurgence of the Taliban, who control or control more than half of Afghanistan.
The senior US military officer said Afghan government forces face an uncertain future and perhaps “possible bad results” against the Taliban insurgents as the withdrawal accelerates in the coming weeks.