Today has been declared a day of national mourning by the Afghan government after gunmen stormed Kabul University and opened fire, killing at least 22 people and injuring around two dozen others.
The atrocity on Monday, which the terror group ISIS has claimed responsibility for, began at around 11am local time with an explosion at the gates of the university. One man detonated the explosives, and two gunmen armed with pistols and Kalashnikov then shot at the hundreds of fleeing students before rampaging through classrooms and gunning down those trapped inside.
Some young people scaled the walls in an attempt to escape. Another was shot dead while attempting to climb out of a window. In the aftermath, Afghanistan's interior ministry shared pictures of students lying dead in classrooms, some next to their books.
The siege lasted for several hours before before Afghan special forces were able to regain control of the building, with the two remaining assailants shot dead. On Monday evening, ISIS issued a message on Telegram app saying it had targeted "the graduation of judges and investigators working for the apostate Afghan government".
The attack began shortly before government officials were due to attend for an Iranian book fair being hosted at the country's oldest university. According to ISNA news agency, Iran's ambassador to Afghanistan, Bahador Aminian, and cultural attache Mojtaba Noroozi had been scheduled to inaugurate the event, which would feature some different 40 Iranian publishers.
Aminian was appointed to the ambassadorial post this February. His predecessor in the role, Mohammad Reza Bahrami, tweeted yesterday: "Today's terrorist attack on Kabul University was an attack on the knowledge and progress of Afghan society.
"Such actions are the result of the Taliban's refusal to accept a ceasefire in the current negotiations within Afghanistan, which could naturally be seen as an opportunity to develop movements such as today's terrorist attack."
The Taliban has been in strained peace negotiations with the Afghan government since mid-September, with delegations attending a series of talks in Doha, Qatar. In reaction to the horrific attack on Kabul University, banners were hung on the walls of the educational institution that read: "Boycott Doha Talks".
This latest incident follows an ISIS-sponsored attack outside a tuition centre in Kabul last month that left 24 people dead. It has seen at least another 22 lives cut short, "most" of whom the interior ministry said were students. Posting pictures of the wreckage and blood-spattered classrooms, the Afghan journalist Ali Latifi remarked bitterly: "They feared coronavirus but it was terrorists who murdered them in cold blood."
Mourning ceremonies have been taken place up and down the country today. In Paktia, a province in east Afghanistan, university students lined the streets to show solidarity with the victims, chanting: "The killing of Afghans must stop." Embassies around the world have raised the Afghan flag at half-mast as a mark of respect. Some of the survivors from Kabul University, meanwhile, took to Twitter to vow that they would be returning to their classrooms after the assault, insisting: "Education will prevail."