French-run school, Afghan soldiers targeted in Kabul bombings

Six Afghan soldiers were killed when the Taliban attacked a bus carrying military personnel. A suicide bomber attacked the Kabul school.

Massoud Hossaini/AP
Afghanistan's security forces personnel inspect the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2014. Police in Afghanistan's capital said a suicide bomber has killed Afghan soldiers and wounded others in an attack on a military minibus.

A teenage suicide bomber attacked a French-run high school in Kabul on Thursday, walking into a packed auditorium during a music performance and killing a German citizen, Afghan officials said.

The attack — the first on a foreign target in the Afghan capital in more than a week — comes after a recent series of insurgent bombings targeting foreigners that have killed a British embassy security and three members of a South African family in the past month.

Acting Interior Minister Mohammad Ayoub Salangi said the person killed was German, while police chief Gen. Abdul Rahman Rahimi identified the victim as a man but gave no further details.

A German Foreign Ministry spokesman said the embassy in Kabul is in contact with Afghan authorities to clear up whether any Germans were affected. He said there was no reliable information at present on possible victims and their nationality. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with department rules.

Germany plans to deploy up to 850 soldiers to the NATO-organized training and advisory mission in Afghanistan from January, which will take over after the alliance's combat troops leave the country.

The attack took place inside the auditorium of the French Cultural Centre, which is on the grounds belonging to the Estiqlal High School, also known as the Lycee Estaqlal, run under contract by the French government.

Salangi said that 10 Afghan citizens were wounded in the attack, including journalists who were covering the event. The bomber, who wore explosives in his clothing, was probably aged around 16 years old, Salangi added.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said there were no French citizens among the wounded.

"I condemn in the strongest terms the terrorist act that caused the death of several people and injured many others," he said in a statement. Everything should be done, he said, "to identify the authors of this barbarous act and bring them to justice."

There was no claim of responsibility for the attack and the Taliban did not immediately comment on the bombing.

One eyewitness said that the bomber walked into the cultural center's amphitheater as she was leaving and detonated his explosives inside the building.

"A lot of my friends are in there and I don't know what has happened to them," said Khadija, an artist who like many Afghans uses only one name.

Other witnesses said the explosion happened at the back of the hall, near an array of television cameras and journalists covering the event.

The head of Media Watch, an Afghan press freedom watchdog, Sidiqullah Thawhidi said that three journalists — two cameramen and a reporter from Mitra Television Network — were among the wounded.

Also among the wounded was Naser Sarmast, a renowned musician and head of the Musicians' Institute of Afghanistan, according to the Education Ministry spokesman Kabir Haqmal.

The school, which is close to the Presidential Palace in the heart of Kabul, was established in 1922 and used only French as a teaching medium until 1985. It is administered by Afghanistan's Education Ministry and is currently under contract to the French government's Agency for Teaching French Abroad.

French Embassy official Yves Manville said the French government funds the school and provides some of the teachers.

"Our main activities at the school are cultural," he said.

At the time of the attack, the cultural center was hosting a musical theatre performance entitled, "Heartbeat: Silence After the Explosion."

Afghanistan's insurgency has intensified in recent months and the violence is expected to continue as the international military mission led by the United States winds down toward the end of the year. US and NATO soldiers will draw down to around 13,000 from Jan. 1, from a peak in 2010 of 140,000, as the Afghan security forces assume full sovereignty over the country's security.

Analysts say the Taliban are choosing foreign targets to ensure maximum publicity.

The attack followed a suicide bombing that targeted a military minibus earlier on Thursday. Six Afghan soldiers were killed in that explosion, and another 10 people were wounded, said Farid Afzali, the chief of criminal investigation for Kabul police, adding that the wounded included civilians.

"The suicide bomber was on foot," said Hashmat Stanikzai, spokesman for the Kabul provincial police chief.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the morning attack.

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