PESHAWAR: Unidentified gunmen entered Bacha Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkha’s Charsadda town Wednesday and opened fire on students and faculty members as they gathered at the school for a poetry recital to commemorate the death anniversary of the activist and leader whom the school is named after.
As the military announced the end of the clearance operation, mass casualties were feared in the attack reminiscent of the deadly December 2014 terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar which left over 140 dead — most of them students.
- Police confirm 21 dead
- Military says 4 attackers killed, gunfire over
- Armed assailants scaled university walls and opened fire
- Multiple blasts were heard along with continuous heavy gunfire
- 3,000 students enrolled at university
Clearance operation underway
DIG Saeed Wazir said two attackers have been killed. Security personnel, including SSG personnel went inside the school to control the situation.
Security forces cordoned off a one-storey house, situated around a kilometre from the university’s boundary wall, where three terrorists were believed to be holed up. It was later declared clear by military personnel.
The terrorists gave stiff resistance to security forces as they engaged in an operation to clear the school over several hours. Intelligence sources said eight to 10 terrorists were inside the school, adding that they were between 18 and 25 years old.
The families of students lined up outside the school. Journalists and all other non-essential personnel were asked to stay back in order to not interfere with the ongoing security operation. Up to 20 ambulances entered the university to rescue the injured.
Provincial Minister Shah Farman told journalists 54 security guards were stationed at the university. He said around 200 people were present in the examination hall all of whom were rescued and “timely action by police and army has prevented large scale damage”.
“The death toll in the terrorist attack has risen to 21,” regional police chief Saeed Wazir told AFP without specifying if that included the four militants the army stated it had killed.
He said the operation had ended and security forces were clearing the area, with most of the student victims shot dead at a hostel for boys on the campus.
The medical superintendent at District Headquarter Hospital, Charsadda confirmed 15 casualties.
An Edhi volunteer earlier said he had seen the bodies of at least 15 persons.
One Rescue 1122 official said, “The boys section [of the hostel] has been affected. Victims have mostly been hit by bullets.”
“Around 90 per cent of the area has been cleared. Over 70 per cent students have been rescued.”
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) provincial spokesperson Shaukaut Yousafzai said between 50 to 60 people were wounded. He added there was no prior threat about an attack.
At least three to four security guards were injured, an eye-witness who managed to come out of the premises said. The Associated Press quoted police as saying gunmen killed an assistant professor and a student in the attack.
DIG Saeed Wazir confirmed that two students and assistant professor Dr Hamid, who taught organic chemistry at the school, have been killed in the attack.
“All students have been evacuated from the hostels, but militants are still hiding in different parts of the university and some students and staff are stuck inside,” Wazir said.
Television footage showed soldiers entering the campus as ambulances lined up outside the main gate and anxious parents consoled each other.
A rescue official talking to Dawn News quoted a rescued student as claiming that 60 to 70 students had been shot in the head by the attackers. The student added that the attack is reminiscent of the Army Public School Peshawar attack.