At least 19 dead, 22 injured in attack on Afghanistan's Kabul University; not involved, says Taliban
Afghan media reported that a book exhibition was being held at the university and was attended by a number of dignitaries at the time of the shooting. MOI spokesperson Tariq Arian said three attackers were killed during the gun fight
Kabul: Gunmen stormed Kabul University on Monday as it hosted a book fair attended by the Iranian ambassador to Afghanistan, sparking an hours-long gunbattle and leaving at least 19 dead and 22 wounded at the war-torn country's largest school.
The ministry's spokesman, Tariq Arian, also said there were three attackers involved in the assault, all of whom were killed in the ensuing firefight. As the sun slowly set over the Afghan capital, there were few other details though the Taliban issued a statement denying they took part in the assault.
The attack came as the insurgents are continuing peace talks with the US-backed government. Those negotiations, taking place in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, aim to help the US finally withdraw from America's longest war, though daily bloodshed continues and an Islamic State affiliate launches its own attacks on Shiites in the country.
Five hours into the fighting, sporadic grenade explosions and automatic weapons fire echoed down the empty streets surrounding the university's fenced compound. Afghan troops stood guard. Earlier, students were seen fleeing for their lives from the site.
"Unfortunately, there are casualties," Arian said as the assault unfolded, without elaborating.
Ahmad Samim, a university student, told journalists he saw militants armed with pistols and Kalashnikov assault rifles firing at the school, the country's oldest with some 17,000 students. He said the attack happened at the university's eastern side where its law and journalism faculty teach.
Afghan media reported that a book exhibition was being held at the university and was attended by a number of dignitaries at the time of the shooting.
Several politicians, journalists, and academicians from across countries like Pakistan and India condemned the attack.
I am devastated. I am destroyed. Visited Ali Abad Hospital. Some of our best students are gone forever. Some others including one of our professors are in critical condition. Such beautiful souls. We have always failed to protect our best ones.
— Sami Mahdi (@Samiullah_mahdi) November 2, 2020
Strongly condemn the attack on Kabul University. Heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims. Such acts of violence are carried out by terrorists who are against peace in Afghanistan. The same terrorists are responsible for the killings of our people here.
— Mohsin Dawar (@mjdawar) November 2, 2020
They have killed more than a dozen students in Kabul University - Killing students in the classroom? You have to be monsters to do so.
— Ashok Swain (@ashoswai) November 2, 2020
We strongly condemn today’s tragic attack on Kabul University. This is the second attack on educational institutions in Kabul in 10 days. Afghan children & youth need to feel safe going to school, college, university. At least 20 people killed & 15 wounded. #KabulUniversity pic.twitter.com/ZPXgcmQVnZ
— Ihtisham Ul Haq (@iihtishamm) November 2, 2020
While Afghan officials declined to discuss the bookfair, Iran's semiofficial ISNA news agency reported on Sunday that Iranian Ambassador Bahador Aminian and cultural attaché Mojtaba Noroozi were scheduled to inaugurate the fair, which would host some 40 Iranian publishers.
Iranian state television reported the attack occurred, but did not offer information on its officials.
Iranian diplomats have been targeted previously by attacks in the country and nearly sparked a war between the two countries. In 1998, Iran held the Taliban responsible for the deaths of nine Iranian diplomats who were working in its consulate in northern Afghanistan and sent reinforcements to the 950-kilometer- (580-mile-) long border that Iran and Afghanistan share.
No group immediately took responsibility for the ongoing attack though the Taliban issued a statement saying they were not involved. However, suspicion immediately fell on the Islamic State group.
Last month, the Islamic State group sent a suicide bomber into an education center in the capital's Shiite dominated neighborhood of Dasht-e-Barchi, killing 24 students and injuring more than 100. The Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan has declared war on Afghanistan's minority Shiite Muslims and have staged dozens of attacks since emerging in 2014.
Schools have been targeted for attacks in the past as well. Last year, a bomb outside of the Kabul University campus' gates killed eight people. In 2016, gunmen attacked the American University in Kabul, killing 13.
Violence has been relentless in Afghanistan even as the Taliban and a government-appointed negotiation team discuss a peace agreement to end more than four decades of war in the country. The talks in Qatar have been painfully slow and despite repeated demands for a reduction in violence, the chaos has continued unabated.
A US deal with the Taliban in February set the stage for peace talks currently underway in Doha. The deal also allows for the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, on Monday, a vehicle hit a roadside mine in the country's southern Helmand province, killing at least seven civilians, most of them women and children, provincial governor spokesman Omer Zwak said.
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