Afghan Dream of a Better Life Ends in a Hilltop Mass Grave

KABUL, Afghanistan — The teenage college students have been lowered into a mass grave one after one other, shoulder to shoulder — simply as that they had sat at their lecture corridor the day earlier than.

A suicide bomber, maybe no older than they, had walked in as their algebra class ended and physics was about to start, detonating his explosive vest and turning the college prep heart into a scene of carnage.

On the whiteboard, fundamental algebraic equations have been coated in blood. A close-by blackboard, the place “Valentine day” was written in pale chalk, was riddled with holes from the ball bearings that have been packed into the bomber’s vest.

The lecture corridor had been so packed, and the explosion so highly effective that almost half the 230 college students have been among the many casualties. Health officers mentioned not less than 40 have been killed and 67 others wounded. The mangled our bodies have been exhausting to determine.

At the hilltop burial website on Thursday, Roshan Ghaznavi, a human rights campaigner, wept over the coffin of a woman named Negina from a poor household; she had been their finest hope for a higher life.

“Today, it is Negina’s casket, tomorrow it will be my casket, the day after it will be your casket,” Ms. Ghaznavi mentioned. “Humanity is dead here. It’s been dead for a long time.”

The assault was claimed by the Islamic State, its newest in a brutal string of bloody bombings towards civilian targets, every part from mosques to varsities, and even a midwife coaching heart. The Islamic State’s maintain on Afghan territory was by no means massive, and has been slipping, however its merciless model of bloodshed has compounded Afghans’ struggling throughout years of warfare towards the Taliban.

The Kabul faculty’s casualties have been simply a small fraction of the relentless bloodletting by a resurgent Taliban in the previous week, when assaults took the lives of a number of hundred Afghans, safety personnel and civilians.

Most of the scholars on the schooling heart, known as Mawoud Academy, had moved from villages in central Afghanistan to spend a yr in Kabul making ready for the nation’s aggressive college entrance examination. Their households had saved so the kids, staying in $15-a-month hostels in Kabul, may pursue a common dream: a good schooling as their ticket out of poverty and isolation.

For the households, the selection to ship their youngsters to the capital has grow to be more and more fraught. Seventeen years after the American invasion, international cash nonetheless powers alternatives for development in the town. But the latest wave of violence has made the fee of these alternatives a heavy one.

Many of the useless from the varsity have been transported again to their villages. But about a dozen, like Negina, have been delivered to the hilltop in the west of Kabul, near another mass grave for the victims of an Islamic State bombing two years in the past. An excavator did the preliminary digging, earlier than native males — some in fits, their jackets neatly folded in the grime — dug with shovels and pickaxes.

Some of the caskets have been carried by fellow college students or relations who had made it to the burial. Others have been shouldered by volunteers who had heard the information and arrived to assist.

“Nobody knows where he was from,” mentioned Haji Abas, who was sitting subsequent to a coffin marked Azizullah.

“He has no one here, no family,” somebody mentioned.

“We are his family,” Mr. Abas mentioned. “Let’s move him closer to the others.”

Among the primary to be buried have been twins, Attaullah and Farzana, 19.

They have been the primary youngsters of their mother and father, born and raised in Ghazni Province earlier than their household moved to Kabul 9 years in the past. Their mom was a seamstress; she would usually sew them matching garments after they have been infants, their cousin Abdul Qader Rahimi mentioned.

“Attaullah was the first to be born, and he grew faster than Farzana,” Mr. Rahimi mentioned. “She would tease him that he drank her share of milk, that’s why.”

“One could not live without the other — that is why they left the world together,” Mr. Rahimi mentioned. “They were one soul, in two bodies.”

Then there was Negina. No one on the cemetery actually knew a lot about her.

Her solely buddy helped different ladies inch the coffin nearer to the grave till its flip arrived. Then she fainted. Other ladies unbuckled her sneakers and splashed her face with water.

Later, a college lecturer who had rented Negina a room stuffed in some of the blanks about her life. Two weeks in the past, he mentioned, a girl from Jaghori district, in restive Ghazni, had arrived in Kabul with a toddler and a highschool graduate, Negina. The girl mentioned her husband was in poor health, and her son was working as a laborer in Iran. She wished for Negina to enter college, after which get a well-paying job to carry the household.

Ali Farhang, the lecturer, mentioned Negina and a roommate break up the month-to-month hire for one room: $30.

He mentioned Negina and her roommate had waved goodbye to him on their solution to class round 2:20 p.m. The explosion hit at three:45.

“I peeked into their empty room from the window last evening,” Mr. Farhang mentioned. “Their lunch bowl was still there — just a salad of tomatoes and onions.”

The academy, down a slim lane, remained closed on Thursday, besides to the relations who got here to select up the handfuls of purses and backpacks left behind. The roof was blown off. The chairs, coated in blood, have been piled in corners.

Police officers guarding the premises sat in the grime behind the partitions, having their lunch of bread and potato curry.

“Gather your strength so you don’t cry,” one of the officers mentioned, as reporters went inside. “We cried a lot.”

Masuma, carrying a checkered scarf, got here trying to find the purse her daughter, Atika, had left behind. Atika had been in the next-door classroom and had survived. Her bag held 4 books and 4 pens, Masuma mentioned.

“There are a lot of bags like that — dozens,” the guard answered, as he led her to rows of tables piled with baggage. The contents had been pulled out so relations may extra simply determine their youngsters’s belongings.

As they searched, the guard requested how her daughter was doing.

“She is not normal,” Ms. Masuma mentioned. “When she sees the photos, she cries a lot.”

They discovered the bag in the lecture corridor the place she had been seated.

“Yes, this is hers,” Ms. Masuma mentioned. “It has four books and four pens.”

For some, the tip of their search was sadder nonetheless.

Hamid Omer had spent a lot of the night of the bombing going hospital to hospital to seek out his sister Rahilla, 17. The evening earlier than, that they had talked about a potential spouse for him. In the morning she ironed his work pants earlier than heading to class.

He lastly discovered her on the authorities morgue.

“There were two bodies: a boy and a girl.” Mr. Omer mentioned. “I was numb, but I had to check the girl. When I checked, her head was shattered, not recognizable.”

Then he observed a watch he thought was his sister’s. He known as house, by some means hoping that another person had the identical watch and hers could be there. It was not.

A model of this text seems in print on , on Page A1 of the New York version with the headline: Suicide Attack Ends Afghan Dream of Better Life. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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