Ahmad Sharifi stepped out of his class on Wednesday to buy a bottle of water when he heard a loud explosion that “shook the walls” of his school west of the Afghan capital, Kabul.
The 15-year-old could hear the screams of students inside the classrooms.
He quickly realised it was an attack.
“I ran away as fast as I could out of the school when I heard the explosion. I stood outside a few feet away from the school and saw many wounded students running out,” he told Al Jazeera.
“I waited outside for my friends but could not find them anywhere.”
Sharifi went back to his classroom after the attack and saw the dead bodies of his fellow students.
The suicide bomb blast was later claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).
At least 34 people were killed.
It was not clear how many students were at the Mawoud Academy – which specialises in preparing students for university exams – at the time.
Although Sharifi escaped unhurt, he was taken to hospital after he fainted at the site.
“Many students died, I could have been one of them,” Sharifi said.
Relatives bury victims
On Thursday, hundreds of people gathered to bury their loved ones at cemeteries in Kabul, among them Mohammad Yousuf, who laid his sister, 16-year-old Shaziya, to rest.
“My friends called me yesterday saying there was an attack on the school my sister used to go to. I ran to the site and found my sister in a bad condition. She was soaked in blood,” he said.
“She was rushed to the hospital but did not survive.”
The Dasht-e-Barchi area is densely populated by Afghanistan ethnic minority, Hazaras, a Shia community that has been targeted in the past by similar attacks.
In one of the biggest episodes of violence against the community, in 2016, ISIL’s twin explosions ripped through a protest by the Shia Hazara minority in Kabul killing at least 80 people and wounding more than 230.
“We are directly targeted by fighters because of our ethnicity. This is our only fault,” Yousuf said.
Afghanistan has been reeling from a series of attacks in the past week that has left scores of Afghan troops and civilians dead, highlighting Afghanistan’s vulnerability to armed groups which remain capable of carrying out large-scale assaults.
While Wednesday’s blast was claimed by ISIL, the Taliban has been conducting attacks on security forces across the country, including a five-day assault in a bid to capture the eastern city of Ghazni that left 150 civilians dead.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in March that 3.5 million children are deprived of education and at least 1,000 schools have remained closed across the country.
At least 86 have been destroyed by attacks this year alone, according to UN figures.
In latest figures released in July, UN Assistance Mission of Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported 1,692 civilians were killed during the first six months of 2018 – the most recorded in the period over the last decade since the agency began documentation.
Back at the victims’ funerals, Yusuf said he will not be able to forget the state he found his sister in the school after the attack.
“She went to school to learn but left in blood-soaked clothes.”