Gunmen killed at least 19 people in a Monday morning attack on Afghanistan’s Kabul University, the nation’s Ministry of Interior announced.
“Several terrorists and enemies of knowledge entered Kabul University,” ministry spokesman Tariq Arian tweeted. At least 19 people were killed in the attack, Arian said, adding that police “rescued many people.”
Officials said the three known attackers took several students hostage during an attack that played out for several hours. All three suspects have been killed, officials said, although it was unclear whether any hostages were killed or injured.
NATO-led Resolute Support forces aided Afghan security personnel at the scene, according to CBS News, which cited a military official.
Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh accused Pakistan of harboring Taliban militants, whom he blamed for the attack. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the militant group, denied that the Taliban was responsible for the attack, CBS reported. Taliban forces previously killed 13 people in a 2016 attack on Kabul’s American University of Afghanistan.
The shootings on Monday occurred as the university hosted a literary exhibition spotlighting Afghan and Iranian literature. Several high-ranking officials and diplomats, including the Iranian ambassador, were slated to attend.
The attack comes during ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, which for years refused to directly negotiate with officials in Kabul. Abdullah Abdullah, chair of the government body overseeing the peace negotiations, condemned the attack.
“Targeting educational institutions is a heinous crime,” Abdullah said. “Students have the right to study in peace and security.”