This week, several armed gunmen entered the building of the American University of Kabul and opened fire. The Kabul police chief told the press that the attack started with a car bomb, and several attackers had entered the campus. The blast started at 7:50 p.m., when students were gathering and eating together dinner, and the hours-long militant attack on the University ended later on the next day, leaving at least 16 dead and more than 37 wounded.
According to Afghan officials, the dead included at least seven students, one security guard, and two police officers, reported the Daily Mail. Most of the victims were shot standing by the windows, added the government spokesperson. Seven police officers were among the 37 injured.
The local special forces stormed the campus overnight to clean it from militants, and at least one US citizen was injured during the operation. As reported by Scroll.in, the unidentified armed assailants managed to enter the University premises despite the strong security measures including four armed guards and watchtowers. One of the witnesses who managed to flee the scene commented that the attack started at the main gate into the compound. Many students, international professors, and administrative staff were stuck inside the classrooms overhearing gunfire and explosions.
As Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi stated in an interview for Fox News, The Afghan Crisis Response Unit managed to rescue at least 700 students from the University compound. Ahmad Samin, a US citizen, teaching chemistry at the University, witnessed the attack said that he was having a class when the attackers started a fire and detonated explosives on campus:
"It was very dark, (and) everyone was running. Everyone started screaming. It was the scariest moment in my life. I was just thinking about my son and daughter who are at home in the States."
According to Reuters, no one has claimed the university attack yet, but Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said it was planned in Pakistan. The blast came less than a month after the University was forced to suspend activities on campus after two teachers, an American and Australian, were kidnapped at gunpoint. Their whereabouts still remain unknown.
The American University of Kabul opened in 2006 as the only private, nonprofit co-ed university nationwide. It has about 1,700 full- and part-time students. As reported by CNN Wire, the University is a symbol of the close relationship and mutual partnership between the United States and Afghanistan and is a prestigious educational institution that represents the modern Afghanistan.
The United States provides financial aid and different scholarships for Afghans to study, including many women. As an elite institution, it welcomes some of Afghanistan's most talented minds: young people committed building decent future in the country despite the constant militants' intimidation and threats of war. The University has often been seen as a possible target for Islamic fighters.
One of the survivors, Helmand-born Rahmatullah Amiri, 31, was on his way to the evening political science class as he worked as a researcher at an NGO during the day to support his studies. Although he was injured, he managed to help many of his classmates to find the emergency exit. He came to Kabul from his small village in the countryside to break free. Studying at the University was a dream come true, he told The Guardian:
"Being a student of Islam, I haven't come across a single thing [in the religion] that should stop me from studying at this university. If I had, I wouldn't have gone. This university has improved the lives of people."