A teenage suicide bomber has attacked a French-run high school in Kabul during a music performance, killing at least one person and wounding up to 20.
It is the latest attack on a foreign target in the Afghan capital amid a stepped-up Taliban insurgency. It followed a suicide bombing that targeted a military minibus earlier today.
The school bombing took place in the amphitheater of the French Cultural Centre, which is inside the grounds of the Estiqlal High School, also known as the Lycee Estaqlal. The school is run on contract by the French government.
According to acting interior minister, Mohammad Ayoub Salangi, the attacker was about 16 years old. Casualty numbers are expected to climb, he said.
“There was one killed and between 15 to 20 wounded,” said Kabul police chief General Abdul Rahman Rahimi. “Because of the smoke, it was impossible to identify the exact number of the casualties.”
One eyewitness said the bomber walked into the 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 uses only one name.
Other witnesses said the explosion happened at the back of the hall, near an array of television cameras and journalists who were covering the event.
The Afghan Journalists’ Association said at least two journalists were among the wounded in the attack.
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.
No French citizens were among the casualties, he said.
The cultural centre was hosting a musical theatre performance called Heartbeat: Silence After The Explosion at the time of the attack.
The bombing was the latest in a string of insurgent attacks on foreign targets in Kabul, which in the past month have killed a British embassy security guard and a South African charity worker and his two teenage children.
Analysts say the Taliban are choosing foreign targets to ensure maximum publicity.
Six Afghan soldiers were killed in the earlier minibus 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.