KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A brazen, hours-long militant attack on the American University of Afghanistan ended early on Thursday after at least 10 people were killed and dozens were wounded, a government spokesman said.
The dead included seven students, two police officers and a security guard, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the assault but suspicion is likely to fall on the Taliban.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid would only tell the media that the group is "investigating."
"Most of the dead were killed by gunshots near the windows of their classrooms," Sediqqi said. At least 37 people were wounded, he said, including seven police officers.
The assault began just before 7 p.m. Wednesday with a suicide car bombing at the university's entrance that breached the security walls and allowed two "terrorists" to enter the campus, he said.
They were armed with grenades and automatic weapons. The siege of the university lasted almost nine hours, before police killed the two assailants around 3.30 am, he said.
More than 150 students who had been trapped in university buildings had been rescued by special police units.
Earlier, the Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said one foreign teacher was among the wounded.
The university, located on the edge of Kabul, was established in 2006 to offer liberal arts courses modeled on the U.S. system, and has more than 1,000 students currently enrolled.
University authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.
Dejan Panic, the program director at Kabul's Emergency Hospital, said 18 people wounded in the attack, including five women, had been admitted. He said three were "seriously" wounded, probably from automatic gunfire.
AP photographer Massoud Hossaini 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 said at least two grenades were thrown into the classroom, wounding several of his classmates.
Hossaini and about nine students later managed to escape from the campus through an 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 other students took refuge in a residential house near the campus, and were later safely evacuated by Afghan security forces.
The Pentagon said U.S. military advisers were on the ground with Afghan security forces at the university. Spokesman Adam Stump said the forces had been embedded with the Afghan units.
The attack on AUAF comes two weeks after two university staff, an American and an Australian, were kidnapped from their car by unknown gunmen. Their whereabouts are still unknown.
The U.S. State Department condemned what it called "an attack on the future of Afghanistan."
The Taliban have been fighting to overthrow the Kabul government for 15 years, and regard foreign civilians as legitimate targets.