By RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan
August 24, 2016
KABUL — At least 12 people, including seven students, were killed during a 10-hour assault by gunmen on the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul.
The attack began on August 24 with a large explosion that officials said was a car bomb followed by gunfire as the suspected militants breached the walls of the complex. Hundreds of students and faculty members were trapped inside the university during the attack.
Afghan special forces, with help from U.S. and NATO military advisers, surrounded the walled compound and eventually worked their way inside. After a night of sporadic gunfire, officials said the forces killed at least two gunmen and ended the assault in the early hours of August 25.
Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said the dead also included three police officers and two security guards. Dozens were wounded and taken to hospitals. He said 35 students and nine police were injured and about 750 students and staff were rescued from the university.
The Afghan Public Health Ministry said no foreigners were reported among the wounded.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes as fundamentalist Taliban militants step up their summer fighting season against the central government.
Roman Dehsabzwal, who was inside a second-floor classroom when the assault began, told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan that he believed an attacker blew himself up just outside a building and then others began entering.
“First there was a loud bang and windows shattered, then gunfire started,” Dehsabzwal said. “One of my friends was wounded.”
Dehsabzwal said he escaped by jumping from the second floor along with two others, then fleeing the scene.
The attack is one of the deadliest assaults on a prominent university in Afghanistan.
The growing number of students attending university, especially women, is widely hailed as one of the biggest successes in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the Taliban regime.
“Attacking educational institutions and public places and targeting civilians will not only fail to shake our determination, but will further strengthen it to fight and eradicate terror,” President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement on August 25, condemning the “terrorist attack.”
“We send our thoughts and prayers to the families of those killed and our heartfelt wishes for a speedy recovery to those wounded,” the U.S. National Security Council said in a statement, strongly denouncing the attack.
The U.S. State Department condemned what it called “an attack on the future of Afghanistan.”
The university, which opened in 2006, has more than 1,700 students, many of whom take classes part-time while working full-time jobs.
The campus attack comes two weeks after two teachers at the university — an Australian and an American — were abducted by unknown gunmen in Kabul. Their whereabouts are still unknown.
The violence came as the Taliban are escalating nationwide attacks.
Afghan forces backed by U.S. troops have engaged in heavy fighting in Lashkar Gah, the capital of southern Helmand Province, seeking to head off a potential Taliban takeover.
The Taliban have also seized large areas of the northern province of Kunduz — where militants briefly seized the provincial capital, Kunduz city, last year in their biggest military victory in the past 15 years — leaving Afghan forces stretched on multiple fronts.
With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.
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