25 dead, several injured in terrorist attack at Afghan University in Kabul

Gunmen stormed Kabul University on Monday as it hosted a book fair attended by the Iranian ambassador to Afghanistan, sparking a shootout lasting several hours and leaving at least 25 dead and wounded in the most great school in the war-torn country.

Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian declined to detail the number of victims of the attack on the campus in the Afghan capital, although local media said there could be as many as 20 dead . Arian also said there were three attackers involved in the assault, all of whom were killed in the shootout that followed.

As the sun slowly set over the Afghan capital, there were few details although the Taliban issued a statement denying participating in the assault.

The attack came as insurgents continued peace talks with the US-backed government. These negotiations, which are taking place in the Arab Gulf State of Qatar, aim to help the United States finally pull out of the United States’ longest war, although bloodshed continues daily and a Islamic State affiliate launches its own attacks against Shiites in the country.

Five hours after the fighting began, sporadic grenade explosions and automatic weapon fire echoed through the empty streets surrounding the fenced compound of the university. Afghan troops were on guard. Previously, students fled the site for their lives.

“Unfortunately, there are casualties,” Arian said as the assault unfolded, without giving further details.

Ahmad Samim, a university student, told reporters he saw militants armed with pistols and Kalashnikov assault rifles shoot at the school, the oldest in the country with some 17,000 students. He said the attack took place in the eastern part of the university, where its law and journalism professors teach.

Afghan media reported that a book exhibition was being held at the university, attended by a number of dignitaries at the time of the shooting.

While Afghan officials declined to discuss the book fair, Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency reported on Sunday that Iranian ambassador Bahador Aminian and cultural attaché Mojtaba Noroozi were due to inaugurate the fair, which would host a forty Iranian publishers. Iranian state television reported that the attack took place, but did not provide information on its officials.

Iranian diplomats have already been the target of attacks in the country and almost sparked a war between the two countries. In 1998, Iran held the Taliban responsible for the deaths of nine Iranian diplomats who worked in its consulate in northern Afghanistan and sent reinforcements to the 950-kilometer (580-mile) long border as the Iran and Afghanistan share.

No group immediately took responsibility for the ongoing attack although the Taliban issued a statement saying they were not involved. However, suspicion immediately fell on the Islamic State group.

The Islamic State group last month sent a suicide bomber to an educational center in the Shiite-dominated district of the capital, Dasht-e-Barchi, killing 24 students and injuring more than 100. The Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan has declared war on the Afghan Shiite minority. Muslims and have organized dozens of attacks since their appearance in 2014.

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