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Multiple explosions hit near school in Afghan capital Kabul

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Multiple blasts struck near educational institutions in Kabul yesterday, killing at least six people and wounding many more. In a country wracked by decades of violence, these attacks appeared to target ethnic Hazaras. On the line is NPR correspondent Diaa Hadid. She covers Afghanistan from her base in neighboring Pakistan. Good morning, Diaa.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So, Diaa, what can you tell us about these bombings in Kabul?

HADID: Right. So it seems to be three bombs that targeted schools and an educational institution in Kabul early Tuesday. At least, as you noted, six people were killed, but there could be more. The Taliban prevented journalists from reaching the area. And the impact, says Heather Barr from Human Rights Watch, is far bigger than one tragic incident.

HEATHER BARR: One bombing can make families feel like they have to choose between believing that their children will be safe and sending their children to get an education. And it's not difficult to understand that some families feel like they have to choose safety. But every time they're forced to make that choice, it undermines any hope for Afghanistan to have a peaceful and prosperous future.

HADID: Now, remember; this is in addition to the Taliban banning girls from attending secondary school. That was imposed when they swept to power in August last year. It's now been eight months. The Taliban said life would be better with them in charge, but Afghans are experiencing even more hardship than before.

FADEL: Has anyone claimed responsibility for the bombings?

HADID: So far, no. But the schools are in an area called Dashte Barchi. As you noted, it's an area dominated by ethnic Hazaras. They're mainly Shiite Muslims, and ISIS has targeted them and battered this area in the past. But some of the worst attacks have been unclaimed, including this time last year when militants struck a secondary school, and they killed around 85 schoolgirls. Yeah, and in 2020, militants stormed a maternity hospital in Dashte Barchi. They killed more than 20 people, including birthing and pregnant women. And so this could be just about targeting Hazaras.

FADEL: And it's a religious and ethnic minority that seems to be persecuted regardless of who's in power. But beyond this terrible attack, across Afghanistan there's a growing humanitarian crisis endangering lives in a different way. How is that being felt by ordinary Afghans?

HADID: Yeah, this is being felt by Afghans as a hunger crisis. The U.N. estimates that 93% of all Afghans don't get enough food to eat. Somewhere around half of them need aid to survive. So I just want to go back to something - 93% of all Afghans is somewhere north of 35 million people.

FADEL: Wow.

HADID: This is not a small number. Tens of thousands of children, the U.N. says, are starving.

FADEL: How have international aid groups responded to the crisis?

HADID: Well, they're trying. The United Nations raised more than $2 billion to help Afghans through this year. That's making a difference in terms of the severity of the crisis. But it's just over half of what the United Nations asked for. And Heather Barr from Human Rights Watch says the international community actually helped create this crisis because it won't unfreeze the Afghan central bank assets, which are largely in the United States.

BARR: It's put Afghanistan in a position where people can't go to work, earn a salary, get paid and take their wages home and feed their family because the money isn't there to pay the wages.

HADID: And Barr says that she doesn't see this urgency getting - she doesn't see that there's much urgency by the international community to resolve this situation. And that's been made worse by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

FADEL: NPR's Diaa Hadid. Thank you for your reporting, Diaa.

HADID: Thank you, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.