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

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.


UK to reopen thousands of shops in easing of coronavirus lockdown, says Boris Johnson

Updated 25 May 2020

UK to reopen thousands of shops in easing of coronavirus lockdown, says Boris Johnson

  • From June 1, outdoor markets and car showrooms could be reopened
  • Johnson is keen to restart an economy which has been all but shut down since Britain entered a lockdown

LONDON: Britain will reopen thousands of high street shops, department stores and shopping centers next month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday, setting out a timetable for businesses as part of moves to ease the coronavirus lockdown.
He told a news conference that from June 1, outdoor markets and car showrooms could be reopened as soon as they are able to meet the COVID-19 secure guidelines, and all other non-essential retail from June 15 if the government’s tests are met.
Johnson is keen to restart an economy which has been all but shut down since Britain entered a lockdown to try to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, but also fears a second peak of infection if measures are eased too quickly.

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READ MORE: Aide to British PM Dominic Cummings says he doesn’t regret COVID-19 lockdown trip

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“Today, I want to give the retail sector notice of our intentions to reopen shops, so they too can get ready,” Johnson said. “There are careful but deliberate steps on the road to rebuilding our country.”
The government said shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books, and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios, and indoor markets, would be expected to be able to reopen from June 15, giving them three weeks to prepare.
It said that businesses would only be able to open from those dates once they had completed a risk assessment, in consultation with trade union representatives or workers, and are confident they are managing the risks.
“The high street sits at the heart of every community in the country,” Business minister Alok Sharma said in a statement.
“Enabling these businesses to open will be a critical step on the road to rebuilding our economy, and will support millions of jobs across the UK.”