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Attack On American University Of Afghanistan Kills Students, Others

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

For the American University in Kabul, this had been a year of celebration - its 10th anniversary, a decade of teaching and training Afghanistan's best and brightest. Then suddenly, yesterday, tragedy. At least seven of its students are dead along with five guards and police after an hours-long attack, which began yesterday with a suicide bombing at the entrance to the campus.

Heavily armed militants laid siege to the university. Many students and teachers managed to escape, though others were trapped inside and dozens were wounded before Afghan forces ended the attack. When we reached university President Mark English via Skype this morning, he described the attack as a huge blow.

MARK ENGLISH: I mean, the entire American University of Afghanistan community, clearly, is deeply saddened by this attack. I definitely want to first say extending our sympathy to all those affected by this despicable act. But that does not preclude us from still remaining hopeful for our mission here in this country.

MONTAGNE: Do you think that the university was attacked because it is a symbol, a symbol of education, a symbol of the future, a symbol of the West?

ENGLISH: Well, I don't want to make those kinds of conclusions. I do know that this university is a lasting legacy of the United States in Afghanistan. We produce graduates that go on to actually change things on a day-by-day basis in this country. They are bright. They're resilient. They're grateful for the opportunity given them and the desire to continue to be able to provide them with the education they need.

So we are a beacon, I think, of hope for many Afghan youth. I don't want to conjecture of why we were attacked. But I can tell you that, as a university, we are doing all we can to advance education of the young people in this country.

MONTAGNE: And you may not be able to talk about this, but do you know more about the two of your professors, an American and an Australian, who were kidnapped outside the university gates earlier this month?

ENGLISH: Well, I'm afraid I'm not allowed to talk about that particular subject at this point.

MONTAGNE: It does suggest that those at the university will have to be very committed because there's danger all around.

ENGLISH: I think everyone realizes the environment that they're coming into coming to this university. We are a regular university once you come on our campus. We're free. We're open. And yes, there are security concerns. We realize that. But I think our commitment to providing education to a young Afghan populace trumps everything.

MONTAGNE: So I'm guessing, then, from what you're saying now that you'll be back, that classes will resume.

ENGLISH: I think that we can make that assumption. I have to discuss this with the board of trustees. We are going to look at a way moving forward. Clearly, there are some things that we need to do operationally. But I think we can safely say that, yes, you know, we will rebuild, and we will reorganize, and we will restart, and we will not be deterred.

MONTAGNE: Just one last question for you, personally, what will you be doing today?

ENGLISH: I'm going to be visiting hospitals and families. In fact, I'm on my way there now. My primary duty, today, is to go and visit and help comfort some of those injured and also their families. I will be doing that most of the day and through this evening.

MONTAGNE: And then there are seven funerals.

ENGLISH: That is also something that I will be attending to, and as you know, in this culture, they do this right away. So either today or tomorrow, unfortunately, I will be participating in some funerals as well.

MONTAGNE: Mark English is the president of the American University of Afghanistan. We reached him via Skype in Kabul. Thank you very much for sharing this with us.

ENGLISH: Thank you very much, Renee Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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