At least 20 people, mostly students, were massacred today by Kalashnikov-wielding Taliban suicide attackers who stormed a prestigious university here in restive northwestern Pakistan and opened fire, in a grim reminder of the 2014 Peshawar army school attack.
The gunmen entered the Bacha Khan University named after iconic leader Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan alias Bacha Khan in Charsadda, some 50 km southwest of Peshawar in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, and opened fire on students and teachers in classrooms and hostels, police said.
Earlier, reports said that 21 people and four terrorists were killed but later army spokesman Lt Gen Asim Bajwa held a press conference and stated that 20 people —18 students, a professor and a staffer — and four terrorists had been killed in the attack. The militants used the cover of thick, wintry fog to scale the walls of the university before entering buildings.
Blasts and heavy gunfire were heard from inside the campus where a poetic symposium was in progress to mark the death anniversary of Bacha Khan who died on January 20, 1988. There were about 3,000 students and 600 guests on the campus when the attack took place, Vice-Chancellor of the university Dr Fazal Rahim said.
Umar Mansoor, Peshawar school attack mastermind and a commander of the Hakimullah Mehsud faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistani (TTP), claimed responsibility for today's assault. He called local media from a mobile number in Afghanistan to claim that they have carried out the attack. A spokesman for the militant group said it was revenge for those killed by security forces since Peshawar school attack. The attacks would continue, he warned. But the spokesman for another Taliban faction, Mohammad Khurasani, condemned the attack and said they were not involved in it.
The Inter-Services Public Relations chief said the four terrorists were using two mobile phones on which phone calls were received from different locations including Afghanistan.
Federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid visited the university and told the media that the operation launched by security forces to clear the campus has been completed. He said the attack was in response to military operation in the province, “which had broken the backbone of militants”.
The victims were shot in the head or chest. Images from inside the university showed a pool of blood on the floor of a dormitory and charred corpses of two alleged militants lying on a staircase.
PM Nawaz Sharif, who is in Zurich to attend the World Economic Forum, condemned the attack. — Agencies
‘Attackers were like us’
The attackers were like us — they were very young. They carried AK-47 guns. They wore jackets like the forces do... We were in the hostel sleeping as we don’t have classes... After everything was over, the Army men knocked on our room and told us we were safe — A university student
Strongly condemn the terror attack at Bacha Khan University in Pakistan. Condolences to families of the deceased. Prayers with the injured — PM Narendra Modi on twitter
We are determined in our commitment to wipe out the menace of terrorism from our homeland. The countless sacrifices made by our countrymen will not go in vain — Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan PM