Death toll in attack on US school in Kabul rises to 16

DEADLY RAID: A wounded Afghan policeman, left, looks on as he receives treatment, following the militants’ raid that targeted the elite American University of Afghanistan, at the Italian aid organization hospital in Kabul on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 26 August 2016
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Death toll in attack on US school in Kabul rises to 16

KABUL: Sixteen people were killed after militants stormed the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, officials said Thursday, in a nearly 10-hour raid that prompted anguished pleas for help from trapped students.
Explosions and gunfire rocked the campus after the attack began Wednesday evening, just weeks after two university professors — an American and an Australian — were kidnapped at gunpoint near the school.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the assault, but it occurred as the Taliban ramp up their nationwide summer offensive against the Western-backed government.
The presidential office said the attack was “orchestrated” from Pakistan, Afghanistan’s longtime regional nemesis often accused of harboring the Taliban.
“Sixteen people, including eight students, were killed and 53 others were wounded,” Health Ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh told AFP. “Some of the wounded are in critical condition.”
The Interior Ministry said the fatalities included policemen, a university guard and a guard from the neighboring vocational school for the visually impaired.
Hundreds of trapped students were rescued during the overnight operation, many of whom tweeted desperate messages for help. Some used classroom furniture to barricade the doors while others made a mad scramble to escape through windows.
The attack began just after dusk, when the private university is usually packed with students, many of them working professionals doing part-time courses.
“Students were pushing each other out of the classroom window,” Farzana, a young student who managed to flee told AFP. “I was reluctant to jump but a fellow student pushed me and I fell down. The rest I don’t remember.”
Authorities refused to confirm whether any hostages had been taken.
NATO military advisers helped Afghan forces to respond to the attack, a US official said, without specifying how many troops were involved.
At dawn, after the assault had ended, a few women students, some of them terrified and weeping, were escorted out of the campus by policemen.
The attack, apparently the first major militant assault on a prominent university in Afghanistan, has cast a pall on the education sector, seen as a rare symbol of hope for the country’s burgeoning youth at a time of rising insecurity.
The growing number of students attending university, especially women, has been hailed as a success story in Afghanistan since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban regime, which banned women’s education.
“Terrorist groups, by attacking civilians, educational institutions, residential areas, culverts, bridges, electricity stations... want to obstruct growth and strengthening of the values that Afghans believe in,” President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement, condemning the “brutal attack.”
The elite American University of Afghanistan, which opened in 2006 and enrols more than 1,700 students, was long seen as a high-profile target for militants partly because it attracts foreign faculty members.
The two foreign professors at the university were seized from their vehicle on August 7, when the kidnappers smashed the passenger window and hauled them away at gunpoint.
Their whereabouts are still unknown and no group so far has publicly claimed responsibility for the abductions, the latest in a series of kidnappings of foreigners.
The uptick in violence comes as the Taliban escalate nationwide attacks, underscoring the worsening security situation since NATO forces ended their combat mission at the end of 2014.


Two thirds of African cities face ‘extreme climate risk’

In this file photo taken on July 7, 2014 children wait in line during a food distribution by the Word Food Programme (WFP) at a school in Bangui. (AFP)
Updated 4 min 33 sec ago
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Two thirds of African cities face ‘extreme climate risk’

  • The data also showed that some of the most populous cities on Earth — including Delhi, Mumbai, Mexico City and Karachi — were all at “high-risk” of damage to their economies and populations

PARIS: Rapid population growth and poor infrastructure have put two out of three cities in Africa at “extreme risk” of the threats posed by climate change, according to a new analysis released Wednesday.
With UN figures showing 86 of the world’s 100 fastest-growing cities are in Africa, experts warned nearly half of the continent’s GDP was exposed to the perils posed by our warming planet.
The findings were laid out in the 2018 Climate Vulnerability Index which calculates an overall risk figure from more than 50 separate data sources, including state-of-the-art climate models, socio-economic factors and demographic trends.
It found Bangui in the Central African Republic, Liberia’s capital Monrovia and the Congolese city of Mbuji-Mayi to be the three most at-risk cities.
Eight African cities featured in the index’s top 10.
“It’s really assessing the ability to withstand climate-related shocks and this is what makes African economies stand out as at risk compared to the rest of the world,” said Niall Smith, an environment analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, which compiled the index.
The British-based risk consultancy also singled out DR Congo’s capital Kinshasa as being of particular concern for investors.
Currently home to 13.2 million people, the city regularly experiences weather events such as cyclones and flooding, which will cause greater disruption as the population swells to 26.7 million by 2035.
“Urban population growth at this projected rate will, without doubt, intensify the city’s alarming risk profile,” they said.
“Africa’s megacities already face issues like lack of clean water, sanitation and shelter.”
The study found that as much as 47 percent of Africa’s GDP — an amount totalling close to $1.4 trillion (1.24 tn euros) — to be at “extreme risk” from climate change by 2023, significantly higher as a percentage than any other continent.
“By no means are we saying don’t invest in these locations,” Richard Hewston, principal climate change and environmental analyst at Verisk told AFP.
“But climate risk should be one of the elements you consider. There’s a huge opportunity for investors and we would say that you need to go in with your eyes open by doing due diligence beforehand.”

The data also showed that some of the most populous cities on Earth — including Delhi, Mumbai, Mexico City and Karachi — were all at “high-risk” of damage to their economies and populations due to climate change.
Scientists in May released the findings of a study suggesting that prompt global action to tackle climate change could save the world economy $20 tn by the end of the century.
But in many nations domestic political concerns still trump climate action.
Hewston gave New York as an example of a city with the technical know-how and political will to invest in climate defenses after it was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
“But if you’re looking for other cities, say in Africa, or Dhaka or Mumbai, they also have competing aspects they look to fund so things like climate resilience don’t always top the list,” he said.
Verisk found that British cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast were the three cities best prepared to manage the impact of climate change.