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Gunmen Kill At Least 19 People In An Attack On Afghan University

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

ISIS gunmen stormed Afghanistan's largest university. They killed 19 people in an hours-long attack Monday. It was the second attack by the Islamic State on a learning center in just 10 days, as NPR's Diaa Hadid reports from Islamabad.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: One eyewitness, a public policy student, told NPR that she heard a terrifying bang and then the crackle of gunfire as gunmen rushed in.

NILOFER FARAHMAND: (Speaking Arabic).

HADID: The student, Nilofer Farahmand, says she was told to run, and she did.

FARAHMAND: (Speaking Arabic).

HADID: Later, she found out through WhatsApp group that the gunman held students hostage in two classrooms. They opened fire on some students. Others at the university fled the gunman by jumping out of windows. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. They claimed they were targeting graduating students and inspectors. And it came days after an ISIS militant blew himself up outside a center that prepared students for university exams, killing more than 20.

The attack cast a shadow over ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Even though they weren't responsible for this attack, they have stepped up their violence across the country. And that growing bloodshed is extinguishing hopes that some Afghans held that these talks would bring peace or even a reduction in violence. Shaharzad Akbar is the chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

SHAHARZAD AKBAR: It's harder and harder to have hope about the process when your children are being slaughtered on a daily basis inside schools, inside universities.

HADID: And she says the violence by all sides should prompt the negotiators to ask themselves whether these peace talks are meaningful at all.

Diaa Hadid, NPR News, Islamabad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Diaa Hadid chiefly covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Islamabad. There, Hadid and her team were awarded a Murrow in 2019 for hard news for their story on why abortion rates in Pakistan are among the highest in the world.

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