Shocked students say Kabul University attack blow to peace

Rahimullah Sahi was in class at Kabul University’s Islamic Studies department on Monday when he heard the sounds of gunfire from the distance.

He and the other students assumed the sound was echoing from an incident near the university’s sprawling campus, but the soon realised the elite institution itself was under attack.

“Suddenly we saw people running and screaming,” says the 22-year-old, who narrowly escaped the deadliest attack on the university, which left at least 22 people dead and dozens more injured.

But fleeing the chaotic scene was not easy as the gunmen rampaged through the campus, firing indiscriminately at their targets.

For 20 minutes, Sahi and hundreds of other students sought cover from the sounds of gunfire, which they described coming in a steady stream from every direction.

Sahi knows he was lucky, as it took Afghan and international forces more than six hours to clear the nation’s largest university campus of the three assailants armed with assault rifles, pistols and grenades.

Even worse, Sahi and other students speaking to Al Jazeera said dozens of trapped students and faculty were held hostage during the hours-long assault on the university.

Surge in violence

The Taliban, whose representatives are currently in Doha for peace talks with an Afghan government delegation, were quick to disavow and denounce the attack.

“Certainly, such attacks are carried out by evil elements that were defeated in Nangarhar and Jowzjan provinces,” their spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said in a statement that alluded to their rival force, ISIL (ISIS).

The ISIL group claimed responsibility for the attack – the second such attack in less than two weeks targeting students.

ISIL also claimed the earlier attack, which killed 24 people in the Dashte Barchi area of Kabul.

In a message on the Telegram messaging app, an account claiming to belong to ISIL said they had “killed and injured 80 Afghan judges, investigators and security personnel” who had been gathered for an event at the Faculty of Law.

‘Never seen anything like this’

Though there was no evidence of large numbers of officials being killed and injured, the law faculty itself bore the signs of indiscriminate destruction. Classrooms with the day’s instruction still scrawled on the whiteboards were riddled with bullet holes.

One classroom’s walls were covered in blood while, in another, boots and shoes abandoned by fleeing students sat on blood-stained wooden desks.

“They were such good boys and girls, so well-behaved,” Saifullah, a worker at the law faculty said of the attack, which he says resembles nothing he’s seen in his 40-plus years of life in the country.

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