A bomb explodsion outside the gates of Kabul University in the Afghan capital on Friday has left at least eight people dead and wounded 33, according to police and health officials.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest to target Kabul. Both the Taliban and the militant group ISIS often stage large-scale bombings in the city, targeting Afghan forces, government officials and minority Shias.
The early morning blast also set two vehicles ablaze although it wasn’t clear if the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber or a remotely detonated bomb, said Kabul police spokesperson Ferdous Faramarz.
The casualty tolls were released by the Health Ministry spokesperson, Dr. Wahidullah Mayar, who tweeted: “All the wounded patients were evacuated to our hospitals and have been receiving the required treatment.”
After initial reports of six dead, Mayer said two people died of their wounds and the number of wounded rose to 33, following reports from hospitals around the city.
The co-ed university compound houses several hostels for summer students attending classes and working on research projects.
Taliban claims no involvement
Though Friday is the start of the weekend in Afghanistan, Massoud, an economics professor at the university who like many Afghans uses only one name, said several lawyers were taking their exams to become judges when the explosion occurred.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the lawyers were the target. In recent months, at least two professors at Kabul University with alleged links to Afghanistan’s ISIS affiliate have been arrested, and last year the wall that surrounds the university was emblazoned with graffiti reading, “Long Live Daesh,” the Arabic name for the Islamic State group.
A U.S. Department of Defence intelligence official told The Associated Press that the ISIS affiliate has stepped up efforts to recruit students from Kabul’s universities, particularly those who are tech savvy, to expand the group’s strength and reach. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk to the media.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said he was not aware of Taliban involvement in Friday’s attack.
Bombing attacks frequent
In a 2016 attack, 13 people were killed, mostly students, and more than 40 people were wounded when militants attacked the American University in Kabul. In that attack, a car bomb exploded outside the university gates, followed by a blistering, hours-long attack in which gunmen roamed through the compound shooting at students and teachers.
Also on Friday, a roadside mine killed five people who were riding in a car in eastern Ghazni province. Their identities were not immediately known. There was no claim of responsibility for that attack, though the Taliban controls vast sections of the province.
The Taliban control roughly half of Afghanistan now and is at its strongest since the 2001 defeat, when the U.S.-led invasion toppled the five-year government that had harboured al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Bin Laden was killed in a 2011 U.S. Navy SEAL raid of his compound in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad. Pakistan’s military and intelligence leaders have repeatedly denied any knowledge of bin Laden’s presence in their country.