İrem UZUN -TDO- At least 22 people have been killed by gunmen who stormed Kabul University before engaging security forces in an hours-long battle on Monday. 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. A spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry said the attack was eventually stopped when three gunmen were killed.
The attack began with an explosion at the gates of the university just after 11am on Monday that sent hundreds of students fleeing but left many others trapped inside. Three attackers shot at fleeing students and gunned down others in their classrooms in what was the second assault on an educational facility in the country in recent weeks. Photos shared by a senior government official showed students lying dead in classrooms, some next to their books. One student appeared to have been shot as they were climbing out of a window.
The Afghan government has declared Tuesday a national day of mourning following the attack. The gunmen were shot dead by Afghan security forces, authorities said. On Monday evening, ISIS took responsibility for the attack, claiming it had targeted a “graduation gathering for judges and investigators of the apostate Afghan government”. It named two men as responsible. The Afghan Taliban earlier denied responsibility.
While the reason for the attack is not clear, Monday was the inauguration of an Afghan-Iran book exhibition at the university. Several senior Afghan officials and Iran’s ambassador to Afghanistan were expected to be there. It was not clear whether any officials were on campus at the time of the attack.