Members of Afghan security forces responding to the attack by the gunmen

By Nehru Odeh

In what looked like an attack against literacy and free speech, gunmen stormed Kabul University ahead of the opening of a book fair on Monday 2 November, killing at least 19 people and wounding more than a dozen others.

Though no reason has been given for the attack, it is believed that the gunmen struck because government officials were expected at the event.

As reported by the BBC, Hamid Obaldi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Higher Education, told the AFP news agency that gunmen started shooting when government officials were expected to arrive for the opening of the fair.

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Video footage showed panicky students scurrying away from the university, while some scaled walls in order to escape, as the sound of heavy gunfire rent the air.

Masooma Jafari, deputy spokeswoman for the health ministry, told AFP four people had been taken to hospital.

Afghanistan Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said several gunmen had entered the campus, sending students fleeing.

Security forces, which included Afghan forces and US troops,  had blocked the campus and fired back at the gunmen who had spread quickly across campus, detonating explosives and firing their weapons. .

“We don’t know whether we are dealing with a coordinated attack or something else,” Arian said.

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Though the Taliban has denied involvement in the attack, the development is not strange as Afghan education centres have been targeted by militants in recent years.

Last month 24 people were killed when the Islamic State Group attacked a tuition centre in Kabul.

The group also claimed responsibility for an attack in front of the university in which dozens were killed in 2018.