“LATEST: American university in Kabul is under attack by unknown gunmen”
(posted by Mirwais Afghan)
At around 7:50 p.m on Wednesday evening students and staff at the American University of Kabul in Afghanistan heard and felt a blast which signalled the complex was under attack. Unknown gunmen entered the University in an incident which resulted in at least 12 deaths and dozens injured. According to Abdul Basir Mujahid, a security spokesperson, the deceased included 7 students, 3 policemen and 2 security guards.
In the early stages of the attack Afghan news Agency TOLO reported,
“Officials have said the Crisis Response Unit (CRU) is on the campus of the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul and are engaging insurgents as the attack continues.
Insurgents gained entry into the heavily fortified compound at about 7pm local time on Wednesday after blowing open an entry point into the university – reportedly through the neighboring school for the blind.”
Terrified students tried to flee, injuring themselves as they leapt over walls. Some barricaded themselves into classrooms pleading for help and sending frantic text messages to friends and family wondering if they would come out alive.
Bilal Sarwary, an Afghan journalist following the security operation reported, “Afghan Special Forces have cut off electricity inside university” and later quoted an ASF commander who said,”we have rescued 260 students so far. Afghan Special Forces everywhere inside American university.” As the operation progressed, Sawary tweeted, “2 attackers shot dead by Afghan SF. 3rd attacker still alive. Many still trapped inside.”
After 10 hours of fierce fighting between ASF and the gunmen armed with grenades and automatic weapons, the incident was reported as over.
Massoud Hossaini escaped with minor injuries (Image Fowzia Koofi)
Massoud Hossaini a photojournalist for Agence France-Presse and winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography tweeted, “help we are stuck inside AUAF and shooting followed by Explo(sion) this maybe my last tweets.” The post was later deleted. He told Associated Press, “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 who was cut barricaded himself inside a classroom with fellow students jamming desks and chairs against the door. At least 2 grenades were thrown into the room injuring classmates. Hossaini found an escape route through an emergency exit with 9 others saying, “as we were running, I saw someone lying on the ground face down, they looked like they had been shot in the back.” Afghan security forces rescued the students from a house on the campus where they had sought shelter.
Hossaini later posted the following on Twitter,
The man who was taking#MyView still is live and never scare of terrorism🙂 I hope all of my classmates are ok.
Timor Sharan tweeted,
Asheq had a terrifying night
@AUAf He threw himself from the window and hid under the container. many still trapped.
Ejaz Malikzada, a political science graduate posted a series of tweets highlighting the fate of fellow students and teachers. He tweeted,
Friend &clasmate,Naser Akbar, is fine.He’s a debator & championed several Int’l debate competitions on Bhalf of
Victims who died in the attack
Others did not escape death and included students, a professor and a member of the security forces.
Bashir Ahmad Gwakh (Fullbright programme) tweeted
I’m broken. My friend, fellow Fulbrighter &
#AUAF lecturer Naqeb Khpalwak killed. Didn’t answer my messages & calls.
Ejaz Malikzada tweeted,
Mujib Mashall said,
I remember he was a regular, quiet presence at the Flower Street Cafe..working away in a corner. RIP.
Background on the University
The University was considered a likely target for attack due to its strong connections to the US whose forces are seen as an occupying army according to militants. The University website which lists key dates in the history of the campus states, “in 2002, Dr. Sharif Fayez, the Afghan Minister of Higher Education, proposes the establishment of the nation’s first independent university, and in a speech to the nation, President Hamid Karzai stresses the importance of education to the country.” In 2008, “U.S. First Lady Laura Bush announces $42 million in funding from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) over five years .” In 2013, “the university signs another five year cooperative agreement with USAID valued at more than $40 million.”
The University also receives funding from the World Bank and Afghan Ministry of Education. As well as offering a variety of degree courses the institution includes a Business Innovation Hub, a Commercial Law Initiative and a $5 million International Center for Afghan Women’s Economic Development.
Recently two employees were kidnapped, see following statement.
Press Release- Two American University of Afghanistan Faculty Abducted in Kabul, Afghanistan
August 9, 2016
The American University of Afghanistan confirms that on the evening of August 7, 2016, two of its faculty were abducted at gun point by unidentified gunmen on Darulaman Road.
The senior management of the university convened an emergency meeting immediately after the incident to review the security situation and to put in place additional precautionary measures. In coordination with the Board of Trustees, a crisis working group has been created to assist in managing this situation.
Campus operations have been temporarily suspended and we expect that operations will resume on August 10, 2016. “We are devastated by the news and will remain vigilant to ensure the safety and security of all university personnel and students” said Dr. Mark English, President of AUAF. Out of respect for the families and for reasons of privacy, the names of the persons involved are being withheld pending notification of next-of-kin.The university is in close contact with the Afghan security agencies as well as the relevant Embassies. Everything possible is being done to ensure their immediate and safe return.
Reactions to the attack
Press release from President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani
U.S. Embassy Condemns Attack on American University Afghanistan
We condemn yesterday’s heinous attack on the American University Afghanistan in Kabul. The targeting of Afghan students and university staff who are working to improve the future of Afghanistan is a cruel and cowardly act.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those killed and injured, as well as with the victims’ families, colleagues, and friends,” said U.S. Ambassador P. Michael McKinley. “We remain strongly committed to the people of Afghanistan who are dedicated to establishing lasting peace and security and building the brightest possible future for their children.”
The U.S. Embassy stands ready to assist Afghan authorities with their continuing investigation in bringing those responsible to justice.
Dr Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,
We lost our finest one “Akbar” while rescuing students at
#AUAFAttack. We mourn his loss & remember his sacrifices,
Omaid Sharifi said “my cousin Alina, 18, had just joined AUAF; her dad is still in Pakistan to get her transcripts. She was murdered by Soldiers of Evil” He added, “they say it’s over after 12 dead and 40 injured; I say it is not. It was never over for us in the last 37 years. More of us will die, AUAF!”
The university posted the following,
Needless to say, because of the recent terrorist attack on the University, the University’s Kabul campuses will be closed until further notice. The provincial centers are open and will operate normally. This page will keep communicating updates regularly.”
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.