University survivors recall night of horror in Kabul

2016-08-25 18:50
Afghan security forces inspect the site after an attack on the American University of Afghanistan (Rahmat Gul, AP)

Afghan security forces inspect the site after an attack on the American University of Afghanistan (Rahmat Gul, AP)

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Kabul - The night before the American University of Afghanistan (AUA) in Kabul came under attack, Abdullah Latifi, an undergraduate student of business administration, had a sudden urge to skip his chemistry class and stay at home, with his family.

But attending the class was important, so he shrugged off the feeling and left to go to school.

Soon after, however, his fears turned into reality when armed gunmen attacked the elite university packed with students and professors.

"When fighters entered the university building, I decided to jump off the window in panic, but when I looked out of the window, it was too high," Latifi said, his voice shaking as he recalled Wednesday night's events.

"So I lied (sic) down on the floor, playing dead. I could feel shattered glasses piercing into my back and I was bleeding. After 10 hours of battle between the fighters and the armed forces, I came out alive as one of the last survivors of the attack," he said.

Latifi recalls an armed gunman speaking over the phone, reporting to someone on the other side saying, "we have killed hundreds of people here", in Pashto, one of the two main languages of Afghanistan.

"They shot one of my friends in the head, who was lying right beside me, playing dead," the 24-year-old said, breaking in tears.

"The sound of that bullet pierced my heart."

At least 12 people were killed in the university attack late on Wednesday. The assault ended in the early hours of Thursday when two gunmen were shot dead by the security forces and that is when Latifi was rescued.

The attack began with a large explosion that officials said was a car bomb followed by gunfire. Fighters battled into the complex where many of the students attend part-time classes.

Another student said that the attackers were "Afghan Taliban," claiming he had heard them speaking in Kandahari Pashto.

No group, however, has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said that seven students, three policemen and two security guards were killed in the assault.

"We have blocked the area off to investigate the brutal attack on students and professors," Rahimi said.

"We cannot give any information at the moment until our investigation is completed."

Local police, however, said that Nato military advisers were helping Afghan forces in their operation to end the siege.

Most of the 40 people wounded were in critical condition.

Afghan security forces stand guard after an attack on the American University of Afghanistan (Rahmat Gul, AP).

Naqib Ahmad Khpulwak, an assistant professor of law at the AUA with studies at the Stanford Law School and the Old Dominion University in the US, was one of those killed.

"My brother was highly educated and always wanted to educate the people of his country. He returned back to Afghanistan for this purpose," Naqib's brother, Masoud Ahmad said.

"Losing people like Naqib is a big loss to this country, to us. We are the most unlucky nation alive," Masoud said en route to his hometown of Jalalabad, eastern Afghanistan, where he was taking his brother's body for the funeral.

Among the victims was also the Pulitzer Prize winner photojournalist, Massoud Hossaini, who was said to be wounded and managed to escape with some fellow students.

Civilians under threat

Civilians are constantly being targeted in Afghanistan's ongoing battles as the Taliban seek to gain territory.

Despite air support from US and Afghan warplanes, government troops are struggling against the Taliban, with senior government officials saying the fighters are becoming better trained and equipped.

Civilian casualties hit a record high in the first half of 2016, according to the UN, with a particular surge in the number of children killed or wounded.

Despite his ordeal, Latifi remained defiant, saying the attack had made him even more determined to continue his studies.

"When I returned home with my clothes stained in blood, my mother and father started crying and kissing me saying they thought I was dead," he said.

"Being the last survivor has made me strong, there is hope indeed," Latifi added.

"I will continue my education for this country."

Read more on:    us  |  afghanistan

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