A society where somehow the divide between the emancipated and the restricted has got limited to visuals, the swanky campus of the prestigious Kabul University was the latest to come under attack from militants.
The university was established in 2006 for the promotion of arts under an initiative by the US government. The then-first lady Laura Bush had helped raise $42 million in 2008 to fund the place from USAID.
Thursday’s attack, which claimed the lives of seven students, one professor, three policemen and two security officers, was seen as a direct attack to what many deemed as progress under the Western mold.
The campus, where about 1,700 full- and part-time students are enrolled and which specializes in graduate and undergraduate courses in business, political science, law, and science, was regarded as a haven for the youngsters; a place where they could study, expand their wings, and chat over coffee.
It is the only co-educational campus in Afghanistan. While it is regarded as upscale, with students from some of the most affluent families of Afghanistan coming to study there, a considerable portion of the population there consists of students from far-off places who have been able to join with scholarships.
One such example was Alnaz Jamal, all of 18 years, who was shot while trying to escape by jumping from the second floor where she had been attending a lecture when the attacks broke out. It was Jamal’s first week in college after years of an unsure existence in Pakistan, and being the daughter of a street vendor, her family had to endure a lot to help her reach where she was.
The attackers, who were three in number, entered the campus on Wednesday night by using a car filled with explosives which one of them drove through, creating a huge hole. They had begun their attack by killing the guard of an adjacent school for the blind.
There were hundreds of students inside who were attending their evening classes Wednesday evening. When the two gunmen found their way in at the Bayat classroom at around 7pm, there were 160 students present there.
While the first gunman positioned himself near the stairs of the first floor, the second climbed to the second floor from where he carried on sporadic, cold-blooded attacks.
Most of the students who were trying to flee the attacks at the top floors were killed by the gunman on the first floor, who was brought down by the operation forces at around 1:30 a.m. While many trapped students had initially taken to social media to post updates, they soon stopped for fear of the gunmen finding them out.
The second militant was killed by the forces shortly before 5am on Thursday morning after a siege which lasted ten hours. The area had been cordoned off, beyond which anxious people, mostly relatives and friends, had gathered to find out something about their trapped loved ones.
The causality figures were varying. While a spokesman for the Kabul police placed the number of injured at 30 in addition to the 13 killed on site, an estimate from the Health Ministry said the number of deceased was 16 while of those killed was 53.
The attack is a big step backward for those trying to salvage the strife-torn nation. Among those killed was Naqib Ahmad Khpulwak, a law lecturer who had come back to the university to teach after having completed his M.A. in the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship. He was soon to start his doctoral program in Britain.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, though initial investigations point the fingers at the Haqqani network, a branch of the Taliban based in Pakistan. There has been no official confirmation as of yet. President Ashraf Ghani had spoken over the phone with Pakistan Army chief Raheel Shariff, demanding strong action against the perpetrators.