At least 19 killed, most of them students, after gunmen storm Kabul University
At least 19 people were killed and 22 wounded on Monday when gunmen stormed Afghanistan’s Kabul University in a brutal, hours-long assault that saw students left in pools of blood in their classrooms.
The attack in Afghanistan’s capital, claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL, ISIS) group, was the second time in less than two weeks that an educational institution was targeted in the capital.
Survivors described horrific scenes following the incident that unfolded around 11am (0530 GMT) when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside the campus.
Two gunmen then started shooting, officials said, sending hundreds of students fleeing and scrambling over perimeter walls.
Fraidoon Ahmadi, a 23-year-old student, said he was in class when gunfire broke out.
“We were very scared and we thought it could be the last day of our lives… boys and girls were shouting, praying and crying for help,” Ahmadi said.
He said that he and other students were besieged for more than two hours before being rescued.
Hamid Obaidi, spokesman for the Ministry of Higher Education, said the attack started when government officials were arriving for the opening of an Iranian book fair organized on campus.
Afghan media reported the book exhibition was being attended by several dignitaries at the time of the shooting. On Sunday, Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency reported that Iranian Ambassador Bahador Aminian and cultural attache Mojtaba Noroozi were scheduled to inaugurate the fair, which was to host some 40 Iranian publishers.
“Sadly 19 people have been killed and 22 more wounded,” Interior Ministry spokesperson Tariq Arian said. “Three attackers were involved. One of them blew up his explosives at the beginning, two were brought down by the security forces.”
Kabul police spokesman Ferdaws Faramerz told the media that most of those killed were students.
Distressing images posted online showed what appeared to be the bodies of killed students lying by desks and chairs. “They opened fire … all my classmates were lying in blood, either dead or wounded,” one student told a local television channel, adding that he escaped by climbing out a window.
Ahmad Samim, who attends the university, told journalists he saw militants armed with pistols and Kalashnikov assault rifles firing at the school. He said the attack happened at the university’s eastern side, which houses its law and journalism faculty.
“God give patience, my classmates martyred and wounded in front of my eyes, and I am taken hostage,” wrote a student, Qaseem Kohestani, on Facebook.
In a message released by the presidential palace, President Ashraf Ghani has vowed to take revenge. “We will take revenge for this senseless attack and for any drop of innocent students’ blood spilled today,” he said.
“This attack will not remain without response, we will retaliate.”
The Afghan government has declared Tuesday a national day of mourning following the attack.
Several education centers have been attacked over the years by armed groups, including ISIL. Last year, a bomb outside the campus gates on Kabul University killed eight people.
In 2016, 13 people were killed when gunmen attacked the American University in Kabul.
At least 24 students were killed last month when ISIL fighters carried out a suicide bombing at an education center in the capital’s Shia-majority neighbourhood of Dashte Barchi.