SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: August 24, 2016

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):American University of Afghanistan

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Afghanistan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On August 24, 2016, armed attackers entered the campus of the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, and over the course of several hours, killed at least 13 people and wounded dozens more. 

At around 7:50 pm, two gunmen reportedly entered the campus after a third attacker detonated a suicide car bomb outside the campus gates. The gunmen proceeded into the campus complex, where they killed a reported seven students, three police officers, two university security guards, and one professor. According to an Afghan government spokesperson, another 35 students and nine police were wounded. The attack continued for several hours, as students barricaded themselves inside classrooms, jumped out of windows (resulting in some reported injuries), and scaled the campus walls to avoid the attackers. Ultimately, between 700 and 750 students were evacuated from the university.  Afghan special forces soldiers eventually entered the campus, and at around 3:30 am, shot and killed the two gunmen. 

As of this report, no group has taken responsibility for the attack.

Scholars at Risk condemns this extreme, targeted, violent attack on the higher education space, and sends condolences to the victims, their families and the American University of Afghanistan community. In addition to the terrible loss of life and injuries, such attacks target the core values of the university, including academic freedom, the free exchange of ideas, institutional autonomy, and social responsibility. State authorities have a responsibility to safeguard these values by taking all reasonable steps to ensure the security of higher education communities and their members, including a responsibility to deter future attacks by investigating incidents and making every effort to hold perpetrators accountable, consistent with internationally recognized standards. Members of society similarly have a responsibility to help safeguard the higher education space, especially following incidents of such gross violence, by pressing demands to State authorities for greater protection and accountability, and by contributing to efforts to understand and reinforce principles of autonomy and academic freedom.