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

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

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

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.


Moscow starts mass COVID-19 vaccination with its Sputnik V shot

Updated 23 min 53 sec ago

Moscow starts mass COVID-19 vaccination with its Sputnik V shot

Moscow starts mass COVID-19 vaccination with its Sputnik V shot
  • The task force said the Russian-made vaccine would first be made available to doctors and other medical workers, teachers and social workers
  • Moscow, the epicenter of Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, registered 7,993 new cases overnight

MOSCOW: Moscow began distributing the Sputnik V COVID-19 shot via 70 clinics on Saturday, marking Russia’s first mass vaccination against the disease, the city’s coronavirus task force said.
The task force said the Russian-made vaccine would first be made available to doctors and other medical workers, teachers and social workers because they ran the highest risk of exposure to the disease.
“You are working at an educational institution and have top-priority for the COVID-19 vaccine, free of charge,” read a phone text message received by one Muscovite, an elementary school teacher, early on Saturday and seen by Reuters.
Moscow, the epicenter of Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, registered 7,993 new cases overnight, up from 6,868 a day before and well above the daily tallies of around 700 seen in early September.
“Over the first five hours, 5,000 people signed up for the jab — teachers, doctors, social workers, those who are today risking their health and lives the most,” Mayor Sergei Sobyanin wrote on his personal website on Friday.
The age for those receiving shots is capped at 60. People with certain underlying health conditions, pregnant women and those who have had a respiratory illness for the past two weeks are barred from vaccination.
Russia has developed two COVID-19 vaccines, Sputnik V which is backed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund and another developed by Siberia’s Vector Institute, with final trials for the both yet to be completed.
Scientists have raised concerns about the speed at which Russia has worked, giving the regulatory go-ahead for its vaccines and launching mass vaccinations before full trials to test its safety and efficacy had been completed.
The Sputnik V vaccine is administered in two injections, with the second dose is expected to be given 21 days after the first.
Moscow closed down all public places including parks and cafes, with exception for delivery, in late March, with police patrolling the streets looking for whose violating the rules. Restrictions were eased from mid-June, however.
Russia as a whole reported 28,782 new infections on Saturday, its highest daily tally, pushing the national total to 2,431,731, the fourth-highest in the world.
In October, certain restrictions such as remote learning for some secondary school children and a 30% limit on the number of workers allowed in offices were introduced again.