One friend was known for his guitar skills, strumming his instrument during late nights of student life. A second worked for a local television station part time. A third had left the university and his friends for a semester, trying to escape the war through the migrant route to Europe — only to be deported halfway, returned to his studies in an Afghanistan in flames.

Reunited, the friends sat in the middle section of a packed bus early Wednesday morning, occupying seats 25 to 28. The coach made its way from the western city of Herat to Kandahar in the

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