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 27, 2019

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Nangarhar University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Afghanistan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On August 27, 2019, Nangarhar University professor Massoud Nekbakht was killed and three colleagues were injured in an apparently targeted attack on their vehicle.

Reports indicate that their vehicle was rigged with a magnetically attached explosive device. At the time of the attack, the vehicle was travelling in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, where there is a heavy presence of both Islamic State and Taliban forces.

Nekbakht was the dean of the language and literature faculty at Nangarhar University. Sources indicate that he was the nephew of Mawlawi Khalis, a prominent political leader from the region who died in 2006. Nekbakht reportedly was not involved in politics.

As of this report, no group has publicly claimed responsibility for the attack and there is no public information confirming a clear motive behind this attack.

The August 27 bombing was the fourth violent attack targeting higher education personnel or institutions reported in Afghanistan since April 2019.

Scholars at Risk is gravely concerned about an apparently targeted attack on university personnel and sends condolences to the victims’ families. In addition to the terrible loss of life and injuries, such attacks target the core values of higher education, including academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. 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.