(Bloomberg) — Three gunmen attacked Afghanistan’s largest university killing at least 22 people and wounding 22 others, the latest bout of violence to wrack the capital Kabul as the government and Taliban engage in negotiations to end the 19-year-conflict.
Afghan special forces arrived at Kabul University shortly after the attack began late morning, fighting the assailants and saving the lives of hundreds of students, said Tariq Arian, a spokesman for the interior ministry. The gunmen were shot dead after a standoff that lasted for more than six hours. Massuma Jafari, a spokeswoman at the health ministry, confirmed the casualties.
Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Twitter called the attack the result of an “intelligence failure” and claimed the Taliban had orchestrated the university assault. However in a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed denied his group’s involvement.
Footage aired on Tolo News, the country’s largest television channel, showed desperate students fleeing the campus, with some trying to scale walls to get away.
“The assailants were shooting at anyone facing them,” Mohammad Aziz, a political science student at Kabul University, said in an interview. “They stormed my classroom, and the moment they entered they started shooting at the students and I saw blood everywhere.”
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The latest attack comes a week after a suicide bomber targeted a private tutoring institute in Kabul, killing some 24 people and wounding 70 others.
Afghanistan has witnessed a sharp upswing in violence even as negotiators from the government and the Taliban have been attempting to negotiate a roadmap for peace. The U.S.-facilitated negotiations began in September and haven’t reduced violence across the country.
“Today’s attack has left us grief-stricken,” President Ashraf Ghani’s office said on Twitter. “This attack will not remain without response; we will retaliate.”
(Updates with casualties from first paragraph.)
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