Afghanistan declared a national day of mourning Tuesday to honor the 22, mostly students killed in a horrific attack a day earlier on Kabul University, claimed by the Islamic State group. Another 22 people were injured, some of them critically.
Monday’s brutal, hours-long assault was the second attack on an educational institution in the Afghan capital in as many weeks amid a soaring rise in violence and chaos across Afghanistan, even as Taliban insurgents and government negotiators hold peace talks in the Gulf state of Qatar.
The Islamic State affiliate also claimed the earlier attack on October 24 that killed 24 young students. The attack occurred in the mostly Shiite neighborhood of Dasht-e-Barchi.
Outside Kabul University Tuesday a small group of demonstrators gathered demanding a cease-fire and urging the government to withdraw from the peace talks until a permanent end to hostilities is declared. Some held signs reading “why are you killing us?”
The Islamic State is not part of peace talks and despite their claims of responsibility, the government has blamed Taliban for the attacks. Taliban, like the Afghan security forces, are fighting the Islamic State and under an agreement signed with the US, the Taliban have committed to fighting terrorism, specifically the Islamic State.
The Taliban, which condemned the attack on the University and denied involvement within hours of its start, have refused to declare a ceasefire saying it would be part of the negotiations.
But if not a ceasefire, then a significant reduction in violence has taken on increasing importance as Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on Monday made a surprise visit to Pakistan urging Islamabad to urge the insurgent movement to reduce violence.
Pakistan has been critical in pushing Taliban into talks. Even as the Islamic insurgent group ousted by the US-led coalition in 2001 maintains its political office in Doha, where talks are being held, its leadership councils are located in Pakistan.