At least six people were killed and nearly a dozen injured on Tuesday when two bombs exploded outside a sprawling school in predominantly Shiite Hazara western Kabul, police said.
Kabul Police spokesman Khalid Zadran tweeted that the back-to-back explosions took place outside the main entrance of Abdul Rahim Shahid High School in Dasht-e-Barchi, and that the victims were "our Shia countrymen." With nearly 16,000 students, the school is one of Afghanistan's largest.
Taliban security forces arrived at the scene, and an investigation was under way, Zadran wrote.
Another bomb went off earlier at a nearby learning center, according to local reports. One student was seriously wounded, and six other people sustained light injuries from the blast, the Etilaatroz newspaper reported, citing school officials
The newspaper said the death toll was higher than the official tally.
The attack was widely condemned by the international community, including the United States, the United Nations and major human rights organizations.
“The United States joins the international community in expressing outrage in response to today’s heinous attacks on the Mumtaz Education Center and the Abdul Rahim Shahid school in Kabul, Afghanistan,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
In a statement posted on Twitter, the U.N. secretary general's special representative for Afghanistan said those “responsible for the crime targeting schools & children must be brought to justice.”
Calling the bombings a “reprehensible attack” on religious and ethnic minorities, Amnesty International said it showed that the Taliban are “failing to protect civilians.”
No one claimed responsibility for the bomb blasts, but Islamic State's Afghanistan branch, known as ISIS-K, has said it staged similar attacks on Shiites in western Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan.
Formed in 2015 by disgruntled former members of the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, ISIS-K has targeted the Taliban and minority Shiites in Afghanistan.
Last May, three months before the Taliban takeover, bomb blasts outside the Syed al-Shuhada, a school for girls in western Kabul, killed at least 90 people. ISIS-K claimed responsibility.
The group's attacks continued after the Taliban swept to power in August. Bombings at Shiite mosques in Kunduz and Kandahar claimed by ISIS-K killed nearly 200 people last October.
The group has also claimed responsibility for attacks on Taliban targets in Kabul, including an October explosion near a mosque during a memorial service for Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid's mother. At least eight people were killed in that attack.
The Taliban, accused of war crimes against Shiites during their first time in power in the 1990s, have pledged to protect the community and have condemned attacks by ISIS-K.
But they've also sought to downplay the threat. Earlier this month, Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi claimed that the interim government has reined in ISIS-K's activities in Afghanistan.
"Daesh had no operations in the last four months," Muttaqi told Chinese television, using the acronym for Islamic State. "We could say that Afghanistan is a secure country right now, and we are committed to the pledges we made to the world — the pledge that Afghanistan's soil would not be used against any country."
VOA State Department bureau chief Nike Ching contributed to this report.