22 shot dead at Kabul University

Letitia Denham

KABUL, Afghanistan — Islamic State militants in Afghanistan stormed Kabul University on Monday as it hosted a book fair attended by the Iranian ambassador, sparking an hours-long gunbattle and leaving at least 22 dead and 22 wounded at the war-torn country’s largest school. Most of the casualties were students and […]

KABUL, Afghanistan — Islamic State militants in Afghanistan stormed Kabul University on Monday as it hosted a book fair attended by the Iranian ambassador, sparking an hours-long gunbattle and leaving at least 22 dead and 22 wounded at the war-torn country’s largest school.

Most of the casualties were students and there were fears the death toll could climb further with some of the wounded said to be in critical condition.

It was the second attack on an educational institution in Kabul in as many weeks.

The Taliban promptly issued a statement denying they took part in the assault, which came as the insurgents continue peace talks with representatives of Kabul’s U.S.-backed government, with the aim of helping the United States finally withdraw from Afghanistan. Later in the day, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

As the attack unfolded, students and teachers were seen fleeing the part of the campus where law and journalism schools are located, while hand grenades exploded and automatic rifle fire could be heard. Scores of Afghan special forces surrounded the campus, shepherding teachers and students to safety.

The Afghan Interior Ministry’s spokesman, Tariq Arian, said all three attackers were killed.

The Islamic State said it targeted newly graduated “judges and investigators belonging to the apostate Afghan government” gathered at the campus, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors terror online messaging.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAdw6HOk4Ng]

The Islamic State statement claimed only two of its fighters were involved, and posted their photographs. The claim did not indicate the Islamic State intended to target the Iranian envoy or the book fair.

Last week, the Islamic State also claimed an assault on a tutoring center in the Afghan capital’s mostly Shiite neighborhood of Dasht-e-Barchi that killed at least 24 students and wounded more than 100 on Oct. 24.

The peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Kabul government were part of a deal Washington signed with the insurgents in February. They are taking place in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, and are seen as Afghanistan’s best chance at peace — though daily bloodshed has continued.

Five hours into the fighting Monday, sporadic grenade explosions and automatic weapons fire still echoed down the empty streets surrounding the university’s fenced compound. Afghan troops stood guard.

Ahmad Samim, a university student, told journalists he saw militants armed with pistols and Kalashnikov rifles firing at the school, the country’s oldest with some 17,000 students. He said the attack happened at the university’s eastern side, where its law and journalism faculty teach.

Afghan media reported that a book exhibition was being held at the university and attended by a number of dignitaries. None of the dignitaries was reported hurt.

While Afghan officials declined to discuss the book fair, Iran’s semiofficial ISNA news agency reported Sunday that Iranian Ambassador Bahador Aminian and cultural attache Mojtaba Noroozi were to inaugurate the fair, which was hosting some 40 Iranian publishers. Iranian state television reported that the attack occurred, but did not offer information on its officials.

Gallery: Gunmen storm Kabul University in second deadly attack on students

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Schools have also been targeted in past attacks. Last year, a bomb outside the Kabul University’s gates killed eight people. In 2016, gunmen attacked American University in Kabul, killing 13.

Information for this article was contributed by Nasser Karimi and Amir Vahdat of The Associated Press.

Afghan police patrol at the site of an attack at Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. The brazen attack by gunmen who stormed the university has left many dead and wounded in the Afghan capital. The assault sparked a hours-long gunbattle. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Afghan police patrol at the site of an attack at Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. The brazen attack by gunmen who stormed the university has left many dead and wounded in the Afghan capital. The assault sparked a hours-long gunbattle. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

A man is treated at a hospital after a deadly attack at Kabul University, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. The brazen attack by gunmen who stormed the university has left many dead and wounded in the Afghan capital. The assault sparked a hours-long gunbattle. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

A man is treated at a hospital after a deadly attack at Kabul University, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. The brazen attack by gunmen who stormed the university has left many dead and wounded in the Afghan capital. The assault sparked a hours-long gunbattle. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Afghan police arrive at the site of an attack at Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Gunfire erupted at the university in the Afghan capital early Monday and police have surrounded the sprawling campus, authorities said. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Afghan police arrive at the site of an attack at Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Gunfire erupted at the university in the Afghan capital early Monday and police have surrounded the sprawling campus, authorities said. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Afghan police patrol at the site of an attack at Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. The brazen attack by gunmen who stormed the Kabul University has left many dead and wounded in the Afghan capital. The assault sparked a hours-long gunbattle. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Afghan police patrol at the site of an attack at Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. The brazen attack by gunmen who stormed the Kabul University has left many dead and wounded in the Afghan capital. The assault sparked a hours-long gunbattle. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Afghan police arrive at the site of an attack at Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Gunfire erupted at the university in the Afghan capital early Monday and police have surrounded the sprawling campus, authorities said. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Afghan police arrive at the site of an attack at Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Gunfire erupted at the university in the Afghan capital early Monday and police have surrounded the sprawling campus, authorities said. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Afghan police arrive at the site of an attack at Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Gunfire erupted at the university in the Afghan capital early Monday and police have surrounded the sprawling campus, authorities said. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Afghan police arrive at the site of an attack at Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Gunfire erupted at the university in the Afghan capital early Monday and police have surrounded the sprawling campus, authorities said. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Afghan police arrive at the site of an attack at Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Gunfire erupted at the university in the Afghan capital early Monday and police have surrounded the sprawling campus, authorities said. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Afghan police arrive at the site of an attack at Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Gunfire erupted at the university in the Afghan capital early Monday and police have surrounded the sprawling campus, authorities said. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Afghan police work at the site of an attack at Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. The brazen attack by gunmen who stormed the Kabul University has left many dead and wounded in the Afghan capital. The assault sparked a hours-long gunbattle. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Afghan police work at the site of an attack at Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. The brazen attack by gunmen who stormed the Kabul University has left many dead and wounded in the Afghan capital. The assault sparked a hours-long gunbattle. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Afghan police arrive at the site of an attack at Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Gunfire erupted at the university in the Afghan capital early Monday and police have surrounded the sprawling campus, authorities said. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Afghan police arrive at the site of an attack at Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Gunfire erupted at the university in the Afghan capital early Monday and police have surrounded the sprawling campus, authorities said. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

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