On Monday, gunmen stormed Kabul University as it hosted a book fair attended by the Iranian ambassador to Afghanistan, sparking an hour-long gun battle and leaving at least 25 dead and wounded at the largest school in the war-torn country.
The spokesman for the ministry, Tariq Arian, would not break down the casualty numbers for the campus attack in the Afghan capital, although local media reports said there may be as many as 20 killed. Arian also said the assault involved three attackers, all of whom were killed in the ensuing firefight.
As the sun slowly set over the Afghan capital, although the Taliban issued a statement denying their participation in the assault, there were few details.
The assault came as the insurgents are continuing peace talks with the government-backed by the US. These negotiations, taking place in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, aim to help the U.S. finally withdraw from the longest war in America, although daily bloodshed continues and an affiliate of the Islamic State launches its own attacks on the country's Shiites.
Five hours into the fighting, sporadic explosions of grenades and automatic weapons fire echoed down the empty streets surrounding the fenced compound of the university. Afghan soldiers stood guard. Earlier, students fled the site for their lives.
"Unfortunately, there are casualties," Arian said, without elaborating, as the assault unfolded.
A university student Ahmad Samim told reporters that he saw militants armed with pistols and Kalashnikov assault rifles firing at the school, the oldest with some 17,000 students in the country. He said the attack occurred on the eastern side of the university where his faculty of law and journalism teaches.
A book exhibition was held at the university and attended by a number of dignitaries at the time of the shooting, the Afghan media reported.
The Iranian semi-official ISNA news agency reported on Sunday that Iranian Ambassador Bahador Aminian and cultural attaché Mojtaba Noroozi were scheduled to inaugurate the fair, which would host some 40 Iranian publishers, while Afghan officials declined to discuss the bookfair. Iranian state television reported that the attack had occurred, but did not provide its officials with any information.
Iranian diplomats have previously been targeted in the country by attacks and have almost sparked a war between the two countries. In 1998, Iran blamed the Taliban for the deaths of nine Iranian diplomats working at its consulate in northern Afghanistan, sending reinforcements to the 950-kilometer (580-mile) long border shared by Iran and Afghanistan.
Though the Taliban issued a statement saying they were not involved, no group immediately took responsibility for the ongoing attack. Suspicion fell immediately on the Islamic State group, however.
The Islamic State group sent a suicide bomber into an education center in the capital's Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, dominated by Shiites, last month, killing 24 students and injuring more than 100. Afghanistan's Islamic State affiliate has declared war on the minority Shiite Muslims of Afghanistan and has staged dozens of attacks since 2014.