A brazen, hourslong militant attack on the American University of Afghanistan ended early Thursday after at least 12 people were killed and dozens were wounded in the assault on the sprawling campus on Kabul's outskirts, a government spokesman says. The attack—called "an attack on the future of Afghanistan" by the US State Department—underscored how, despite efforts by the Afghan authorities to improve security, militants in this country are still able to stage large-scale attacks, including in the country's capital, Kabul, the AP notes. The dead included seven students, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi. Three police officers and two security guards were also killed, the ministry says. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the assault, but suspicion is likely to fall on the Taliban. The group's spokesman would only tell the media that the Taliban are "investigating."
"Most of the dead were killed by gunshots near the windows of their classrooms," Sediqqi says. The ministry statement says 36 people were wounded, including nine police officers; Kabul's police chief says one foreign teacher was among the wounded. The assault began just before 7pm Wednesday—a time when hundreds of students typically attend evening classes at the prestigious university—with a suicide car bombing at the school's entrance. The blast breached security walls and allowed two other attackers to enter the campus, armed with grenades and automatic weapons, Sediqqi says. The siege lasted almost nine hours before police killed the two assailants around 3:30am, he adds. The attack came two weeks after two university staffers, an American and an Australian, were kidnapped from their car by unknown gunmen. Their whereabouts remain unknown.