Gunmen storm Kabul University, killing 19 and wounding 22

KABUL —Gunmen launched a day-long attack on Kabul University Monday, killing at least 19, wounding 22, and taking several students hostage according to the Interior Ministry.

Ahmad Shah Massoud et al. posing for the camera: Afghan police arrive at the site of an attack at Kabul University in Kabul, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020.

© Rahmat Gul/AP
Afghan police arrive at the site of an attack at Kabul University in Kabul, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020.

The attack began with an explosion at the gates of the prestigious university campus in west Kabul just before 11 a.m. Monday morning. Thousands of students fled, but a number trapped inside began posting to social media describing seeing classmates gunned down.

“God give patience, my classmates martyred and wounded in front of my eyes, and I am taken hostage,” Qaseem Kohestani, a fourth year student at the university’s public policy school, posted to Facebook.

A law student told The Washington Post that dozens of students and some professors were taken hostage in the attack. The student spoke on condition of anonymity for security concerns.

[Taliban shows it can launch attacks anywhere across Afghanistan, even as peace talks continue]

Police special forces were sent to the scene and by afternoon the Interior Ministry said hundreds of students had been rescued by Afghan security forces. After an assault that lasted over five hours, the Interior Ministry declared the campus secured.

Shortly after the attack began the Taliban issued a statement denying responsibility.

This is the second significant attack targeting civilians in Kabul in recent weeks. Last month a suicide attack on an education center in west Kabul killed 24 people, mostly students, and wounded 70 others. The Islamic State claimed responsibility.

West Kabul, home to many of Kabul’s minority community of ethnic Hazara Shiites, has born the brunt of Islamic State attacks in recent years. The attacks have targeted mosques, shrines, schools, gyms and public gatherings.

Many senior Afghan officials accuse the Taliban of playing a role in attacks claimed by the Islamic State in Afghanistan. The Taliban denies the accusations, but has increased violence in other parts of the country despite ongoing peace talks with representatives of the Afghan republic in Doha.

The peace talks were launched in September and while the two sides continue to meet, they have so far failed to make significant progress.

The latest report from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said overall civilian casualties are down across the country. The report found fewer civilian casualties during the first nine months of 2020 than in any similar period since 2012. Between January and September, 2,117 civilians were killed and 3,822 wounded, a 30 percent drop compared to 2019.

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