A brazen, hours-long militant attack on the American University of Afghanistan ended early on Thursday after at least 12 people were killed and dozens were wounded in the assault on the sprawling campus on Kabul’s outskirts, a government spokesman said.
The attack underscored how despite efforts by the Afghan authorities to improve security, militants in this country are still able to stage large-scale attacks, including in the country’s capital, Kabul.
The dead included seven students, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi. Three police officers and two security guards were also killed, the ministry said.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the assault but suspicion is likely to fall on the Taliban. The group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, would only tell the media that the Taliban are “investigating.”
“Most of the dead were killed by gunshots near the windows of their classrooms,” Sediqqi said. The ministry statement said that 36 people were wounded, including nine police officers.
The assault began just before 7 pm yesterday - a time when hundreds of students typically attend evening classes at the prestigious university - with a suicide car bombing at the university’s entrance.
The blast breached the security walls and allowed two other “terrorists,” beside the driver of the vehicle, to enter the campus, Sediqqi said.
They were armed with grenades and automatic weapons. The siege of the university lasted almost nine hours, before police killed the two assailants around 3.30 am, he added.
More than 200 people, mostly students who had been trapped in university buildings were rescued by special police units. Earlier, Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said one foreign teacher was among the wounded.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office said he had visited some of the wounded in hospital on Thursday morning and had also extended condolences to the victims’ families.
Ghani condemned the assault as an “attack on education institutions and public places” and said it would “strength our goal to eliminate the roots of terrorism.”
The university, located on the western edge of Kabul, was established in 2006 to offer liberal arts courses modeled on the US system, and has more than 1,000 students currently enrolled.
It was not immediately clear what plans the university has for enhanced security or when it would reopen, as faculty leaders could not immediately be reached for comment.