(Update 1: updates casualties, adds details)
Kabul, Nov 2 (efe-epa).- At least 19 people were killed and 22 injured on Monday as gunmen laid siege to the Kabul University for five hours, with the attack eventually ending with the death of all three attackers.
“The terrorist attack on Kabul University ended with the killing of the three terrorists,” interior ministry spokesperson Tariq Arian said in a statement, confirming the casualties.
Arian later told EFE that the deceased include 10 women, although he highlighted that hundreds of students and staff of the university were rescued in an hours-long operation.in the Afghan capital.
He added that security forces were now trying to clear the area of explosives.
The wounded include students, teachers, administrative employees of the university and a taxi driver, public health ministry spokesperson Akmal Samsour told EFE, adding that all of them were stable despite the majority suffering bullet injuries.
The assailants chose to enter the campus early morning, when the classes witness the highest attendance, said higher education ministry spokesperson Hanif Farzan, explaining that around 15,000 people were present inside the university premises at the time of the attack.
Social media was soon abuzz with videos taken by students with their mobile phones, showing young men and women jumping walls and fleeing the campus, even as gunfire could be heard in the background.
Local media outlets have published images of bodies strewn around the classrooms and passages of the university.
No group as claimed responsibility for the attack so far.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in a brief statement that the group had nothing to do with the siege of the university.
President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi condemned the attack in a statement.
“We strongly condemn today’s terrorist attack on Kabul University. (…) After the terrorists’ shameful defeat in Helmand, now these terrorist groups are in panic and targeting academic institutions,” he tweeted, referring to the Taliban’s siege of the capital of the southern province in October.
” (…) Targeting educational institutions is a heinous crime. Students have the right to study in peace & security. I offer my sincere condolences to victims & their families. We will prevail over the forces of darkness,” tweeted Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation.
The NATO representative to Afghanistan, Stefano Pontecorvo, also condemned the attack and reminded that “this is the second attack on educational institutions in Kabul in 10 days,” after 24 people – mostly students – were killed and 57 injured in a deadly attack last week on an educational center of the Shia minority.
This was the first such attack on Kabul University, which does not have strong security arrangements, as usually only a few guards man the three main gates of the campus to carry out a security check of the students.
However, Afghanistan has witnessed major insurgent attacks on other universities in the past, such as the bombing of a university classroom in the southern Ghazni province last year, which killed 23 students, most of them women.
In August 2016, 17 people were killed and 45 injured in a 10-hour siege of the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul.
The latest attack in the center of Kabul comes at a sensitive time when representatives of the Taliban and the government have been holding peace talks in the Qatari capital of Doha since early September to end two decades of war in the country. EFE-EPA