The American University of Afghanistan in Kabul came under attack today just two weeks after an American and an Australian professor were kidnapped while driving from the campus to their guesthouse.
According to Afghanistan’s Tolo News, “an unknown number of gunmen and suicide bombers” gained access after blowing a hole in the perimeter of the fortified campus at about 7 p.m. local time.
The coed university opened in 2006 and conducts its undergraduate courses in English. About 1,300 students — about 40 percent of those women — attend the school, which has a reputation for stringent security and was closed for a few days after the professors were kidnapped off-campus.
It’s the first time the American University has been attacked.
Tolo reported that police cut the power to campus two hours after the attack began as many students and staff were feared to still be hostage or hiding inside.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility from Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, but the Taliban traditionally favor targets such as a university with foreigners. A U.S. soldier was killed this week by an IED while conducting an anti-Taliban operation with Afghan forces in Helmand province; the Taliban are still conducting their spring offensive, Operation Omari, named after their late one-eyed leader Mullah Omar.
Massoud Hossaini, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for the Associated Press, ominously tweeted, “Help we are stuck inside AUAF and shooting flollowed (sic) by Explo this maybe my last tweets.” The tweet was later deleted without explanation.
The AP then reported that Hossaini, who was in class at the time of the attack, escaped with nine other students through an emergency gate.
“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. “…As we were running I saw someone lying on the ground face down, they looked like they had been shot in the back.” The photographer was injured by broken glass.
On a personal note, to be very honest, I was scared shitless when I heard my friend @Massoud151 was wounded. Now, endless thanks to God.
— KAZEMI, Mustafa (@CombatJourno) August 24, 2016
CBS reporter Ahmad Mukhtar was also on campus at the time of the attack. “I along with my friends escaped and several other of my friends and professors trapped inside,” he tweeted.
Other trapped students and staff were also calling for help through their social media accounts.
Afghanistan’s health ministry said 14 wounded had been taken to the hospital so far.
The State Department has been mum on the kidnapped American professor since the Aug. 7 attack, citing privacy considerations.
“Travel to all areas of Afghanistan remains unsafe,” State Dept. spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said on Aug. 8. “We do note that the U.S. embassy’s ability to provide emergency consular assistance to U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is severely limited.”
Today, Trudeau told reporters at the daily briefing, “We condemn this attack in the strongest possible way. An attack on the university is an attack on the future of Afghanistan.”
U.S. officials were “closely monitoring the situation,” she said.