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Police Respond To Attack At American University Of Aghanistan In Kabul


An attack on the American University of Afghanistan has left at least one person dead and more than a dozen others injured. Freshta Ibrahimi is a senior at the school. She just walked out of a campus cafeteria with a group of friends when she heard the attack begin.

FRESHTA IBRAHIMI: We were talking, and we were having chat and were just laughing, and we heard the gunfire. We were shocked - and suddenly the bomb blast. I saw red color, and that color was from the blast.

SIEGEL: And during that blast, she lost sight of her friends. Security guards told students to stay put, but Freshta and others decided it was safer to leave campus, so they ran. And Freshta says she cried as she did so, fearing the students were the targets.

IBRAHIMI: I couldn't feel my body, and there were other girls that were helping me to just run. There were boys that - they bought me water because I couldn't breathe anymore. When I got to a main street, I was feeling better, yeah, because there were more people.

SIEGEL: For more on what happened, we turn to reporter Jennifer Glasse in Kabul. Jennifer, how did this attack unfold?

JENNIFER GLASSE: Robert, it started with an explosion outside the south wall of university, and then the attackers were able to get into the university - a terrifying evening for the Students - hundreds of students on campus at 7:00 when this attack started. It is because many people work during the day and then go to evening classes.

So you think as many as 300 or 400 students were on the campus, and then as Freshta told you, there was gunfire. Some of the students sheltered where they were, hid, tried to find places where they could be safe. And some ran outside another gate. And that's how that's they got out. So some got out initially, but many were trapped inside.

SIEGEL: Has anyone claimed responsibility for this attack?

GLASSE: So far no one has claimed responsibility for this attack.

SIEGEL: Now, this happened just two weeks after two members of the American University of Afghanistan staff, an American and an Australian, were kidnapped by gunmen. Is it clear whether these events are linked, and are the whereabouts of those two known?

GLASSE: We don't know, and we've got no information on the whereabouts of those two men who were kidnapped in a bold attack. Right after evening classes two weeks ago on a Sunday night about 8:30 in the evening, they were pulled from their car. No one's claimed responsibility for that. We don't know their whereabouts, and it's unclear whether these two events are linked.

But of course it's a terrible blow for the American University in Afghanistan. More than a thousand students full- and part-time go there, some of the best and brightest in Afghanistan. So it'll be a very difficult time for this university to get students who will be concerned about what's going to happen next with the University. This - the university closed for a couple of days after the kidnapping, and of course the siege is still underway now and the future of the university right now uncertain

SIEGEL: The American University opened in 2006 with U.S. support. It's a liberal arts school. It's based on the American system. What else can you tell us about it? What can tell us about the students who are enrolled there?

GLASSE: Well, it's a very modern campus. It is a liberal arts school, the only one here in Afghanistan. And so you have men and women together on the campus. They all - all the classes are in English, so they all speak very good English. So they tend to be well-educated, modern, forward-thinking Afghan.

Some of them have full-time jobs and go to university in the evenings. Some of them have very prestigious jobs and are trying to better their lives. So it is a big blow for Afghanistan because this is the university that educates those who really have decided to stay here and get their education here in Afghanistan, which is critical of course at a time when so many Afghans are leaving.

SIEGEL: That's reporter Jennifer Glasse in Kabul. Jennifer, thank you.

GLASSE: Good to talk to you, Robert. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.