Kabul, 2 November 2020 (dpa/MIA) – At least 19 people were killed and 22 others wounded after gunmen stormed the Kabul University campus on Monday, the Interior Ministry said.
After entering the campus in military uniform, three assailants took up positions in one of the faculties and exchanged fire with Afghan elite forces for six hours, officials and witnesses said.
Helicopters were hovering over the campus, with the sound of sporadic explosions and gunfights heard every now and then.
A US military official confirmed that the NATO-led Resolute Support mission was providing support to Afghan security forces during the operation, but declined to provide specifics.
Initially, hundreds of students, professors, and administrative staff of the university escaped desperately over the walls of the compound while later hundreds of others were rescued by security forces, according to officials and witnesses.
During the initial hours, a professor of the university told dpa that an unidentified number of students were taken hostage by the attackers. The professor said there were no safe rooms in the compound nor were any security directions given.
Witnesses said the attack had taken place during a joint book exhibition by Afghanistan and Iran in the compound.
Heart-rending pictures of the incident shared on social media show the students amid the bloodbath.
No group has yet claimed responsibility, and the Taliban has denied any involvement.
The attack was widely condemned nationally and internationally.
The European Union mission in Afghanistan called it “an atrocious act” and breach of humanitarian law.
Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh called the attack an “intelligence failure” and blamed Taliban militants despite their denial.
Both the Taliban and Islamic State are active in Afghanistan and capable of carrying out attacks in Kabul.
Attacks on high-profile academic institutions in Afghanistan have taken place in the past.
Late last month, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside an educational centre in Kabul, killing at least 24 and wounding 57 others.
In 2016, at least 16 people were killed in an attack on the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF). A suicide bomber ploughed his explosives-laden vehicle into the university before several others stormed the campus with automatic weapons.