Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Developing: Gunmen attack American university in Kabul, students flee; 1 dead, 26 injured

(LAT) Gunmen attacked the American University of Afghanistan on Wednesday evening, according to eyewitnesses.

At least one person was killed in the attack and 26 were injured, according to Said Wahidullah Majrooh, spokesman for the ministry of public health.

Several students were trapped inside the building, witnesses said, and the wounded were being taken away by ambulances. About 40 students had managed to escape the building, a police source said.

University President Mark English told the Associated Press that security forces had arrived on the scene soon after the attack began around 7 p.m. Gunshots could still be heard as of 9 p.m. local time.

“We believe that two assailants have been inside; our forces are trying to find their exact location and engage,” said Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior. “It’s not over yet. As soon as we see injured people, we’ve been helping them get out.”

A student who escaped the attack told of hearing gunshots and an explosion.

“My class was over, and I was planning to leave. Then suddenly I heard gunshots,” said Ahmad Mukhtar. “I tried to find shelter, but a blast took place and I ran toward a wall and managed to escape by climbing the wall and injured my leg.”

“Several students have been killed and injured; many students and professors are stuck,” a student inside the university told The Times over the phone. “Some managed to escape, but we are still here. Please help us.”

Wahidullah Hasani said his cousin, a student, was still stuck inside the building. "I called her half an hour ago, she asked me not to call her again, because the assailants were close and may notice the phone light and her voice,” he said. “She hung up and said ‘Forgive me if we don't meet again.’”

Associated Press photographer Massoud Hossaini said he 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 and about nine students managed to escape from the campus through a northern 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 nine students took refuge in a house near the campus.

Adam Stump, a Pentagon spokesman, said a "small number of advisors" from the U.S. military are assisting Afghan forces as they respond to the attack at American University in Kabul

"These advisors are not in a combat role," he said. "They are advising their Afghan counterparts."

The attack comes two weeks after two university staff members were kidnapped from their car by unknown gunmen. Their whereabouts are still unknown.