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German killed in school bombing

A teenage suicide bomber has attacked a French-run high school in Kabul, killing a German citizen, Afghan officials said.

The attack - the first on a foreign target in the Afghan capital in more than a week - comes after a series of insurgent bombings targeting foreigners that have killed a British embassy security guard and three members of a South African family in the past month.

Acting interior minister Mohammad Ayoub Salangi said the person killed was German, while police chief General Abdul Rahman Rahimi identified the victim as a man but gave no further details.

A German Foreign Ministry spokesman said the embassy in Kabul is in contact with Afghan authorities to clear up whether any Germans were affected. He said there was no reliable information at present on possible victims and their nationality.

Germany plans to deploy up to 850 soldiers to the Nato-organised training and advisory mission in Afghanistan from January, which will take over after the alliance's combat troops leave the country.

The attack took place inside the auditorium of the French Cultural Centre, which is on the grounds belonging to the Estiqlal High School, also known as the Lycee Estaqlal, run under contract by the French government.

Mr Salangi said that 10 Afghan citizens were wounded in the attack, including journalists who were covering the event. The bomber, who wore explosives in his clothing, was probably aged around 16, he added.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said there were no French citizens among the wounded.

"I condemn in the strongest terms the terrorist act that caused the death of several people and injured many others," he said. Everything should be done, he said, "to identify the authors of this barbarous act and bring them to justice."

One witness said the bomber walked into the cultural centre's 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.

The head of Media Watch, an Afghan press freedom watchdog, Sidiqullah Thawhidi said that three journalists - two cameramen and a reporter from Mitra Television Network - were among the wounded.

Also among the wounded was Naser Sarmast, a renowned musician and head of the Musicians' Institute of Afghanistan, according to the Education Ministry spokesman Kabir Haqmal.

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.

At the time of the attack, the cultural centre was hosting a musical theatre performance entitled, Heartbeat: Silence After The Explosion.

Afghanistan's insurgency has intensified in recent months and the violence is expected to continue as the international military mission led by the United States winds down toward the end of the year.

US and Nato soldiers will draw down to around 13,000 from January 1, from a peak in 2010 of 140,000, as the Afghan security forces assume full sovereignty over the country's security.

Analysts say the Taliban are choosing foreign targets to ensure maximum publicity.

The attack followed a suicide bombing that targeted a military minibus earlier today.

Six Afghan soldiers were killed in that 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.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying the performance under way was immoral.

They said the play was also being held under the aegis of "foreign invaders". All civil society gatherings were potential targets, the Taliban statement said.

French president Francois Hollande said he condemned the "odious attack" and extended France's solidarity to the victims and their families.

"By attacking this target, the terrorists were targeting culture and creativity," he said.

Mr Fabius urged that everything be done "to identify the authors of this barbarous act and bring them to justice".

"I was watching the drama, my students were preforming music, I heard a blast and fell down," Mr Sarmast said.

"I thought it was part of the drama, until I touched my head and saw that it was bleeding and I fell down again."

Homan, who also uses one name and was acting in the play, said it envisaged the aftermath of an explosion through the reincarnated souls of its victims.

"There was a big explosion and we just ran from the stage. It was horrible," he said.


From Belfast Telegraph