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12 Dead in Attack on Afghan University 08/25 06:27

   A brazen, hours-long militant attack on the American University of 
Afghanistan ended early Thursday after at least 12 people were killed and 
dozens were wounded in the assault on the sprawling campus on Kabul's 
outskirts, a government spokesman said.

   KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A brazen, hours-long militant attack on the 
American University of Afghanistan ended early Thursday after at least 12 
people were killed and dozens were wounded in the assault on the sprawling 
campus on Kabul's outskirts, a government spokesman said.

   The attack underscored how despite efforts by the Afghan authorities to 
improve security, militants in this country are still able to stage large-scale 
attacks, including in the country's capital, Kabul.

   The dead included seven students, according to Interior Ministry spokesman 
Sediq Sediqqi. Three police officers and two security guards were also killed, 
the ministry said.

   No group has yet claimed responsibility for the assault but suspicion is 
likely to fall on the Taliban. The group's spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, would 
only tell the media that the Taliban are "investigating."

   "Most of the dead were killed by gunshots near the windows of their 
classrooms," Sediqqi said. The ministry statement said that 36 people were 
wounded, including nine police officers.

   The assault began just before 7 p.m. Wednesday --- a time when hundreds of 
students typically attend evening classes at the prestigious university --- 
with a suicide car bombing at the university's entrance.

   The blast breached the security walls and allowed two other "terrorists," 
beside the driver of the vehicle, to enter the campus, Sediqqi said.

   They were armed with grenades and automatic weapons. The siege of the 
university lasted almost nine hours, before police killed the two assailants 
around 3.30 am, he added.

   More than 200 people, mostly students who had been trapped in university 
buildings were rescued by special police units. Earlier, Kabul police chief 
Abdul Rahman Rahimi said one foreign teacher was among the wounded.

   President Ashraf Ghani's office said he had visited some of the wounded in 
hospital on Thursday morning and had also extended condolences to the victims' 
families.

   Ghani condemned the assault as an "attack on education institutions and 
public places" and said it would "strength our goal to eliminate the roots of 
terrorism."

   The university, located on the western edge of Kabul, was established in 
2006 to offer liberal arts courses modeled on the U.S. system, and has more 
than 1,000 students currently enrolled.

   It was not immediately clear what plans the university has for enhanced 
security or when it would reopen, as faculty leaders could not immediately be 
reached for comment.

   Dejan Panic, the program director at Kabul's Emergency Hospital, said 18 
people wounded in the attack, including five women, had been admitted to the 
hospital. He said three were "seriously" wounded, probably from automatic 
gunfire.

   AP photographer Massoud Hossaini was in a classroom with 15 students when he 
heard an explosion on the southern flank of the campus.

   "I went to the window to see what was going on, and I saw a person in normal 
clothes outside. He shot at me and shattered the glass," Hossaini said, adding 
that he fell on the glass and cut his hands.

   The students then barricaded themselves inside the classroom, pushing chairs 
and desks against the door, and staying on the floor. Hossaini said at least 
two grenades were thrown into the classroom, wounding several of his classmates.

   Hossaini and about nine students later managed to escape from the campus 
through an emergency gate.

   "As we were running, I saw someone lying on the ground face down, they 
looked like they had been shot in the back," he said.

   Hossaini and the other students took refuge in a residential house near the 
campus, and were later safely evacuated by Afghan security forces.

   The Pentagon said U.S. military advisers were on the ground with Afghan 
security forces at the university. Spokesman Adam Stump said the forces had 
been embedded with the Afghan units.

   The attack came two weeks after two university staffers, an American and an 
Australian, were kidnapped from their car by unknown gunmen driving home from 
the campus after evening classes on a Sunday night. Their abductors were men 
dressed in Afghan military uniforms, officials had said.

   The whereabouts of the American and the Australian, whose names have not 
been released, remain unknown.

   The U.S. State Department condemned what it called "an attack on the future 
of Afghanistan."

   The Taliban have been fighting to overthrow the Kabul government for 15 
years, and regard foreign civilians as legitimate targets.

   Last month, Kabul was shaken by a massive suicide bombing that struck a 
peaceful rally by Afghanistan's minority ethnic Hazara community, killing more 
than 80 people and wounding hundreds.

   That attack was claimed by the Islamic State group, which emerged last year 
in Afghanistan as an affiliate of the militant group fighting in Iraq and 
Syria. It was the IS Afghan branch's first assault in Kabul and the deadliest 
attack in the Afghan capital since the U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban 
regime in 2001.


(KA)

 
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