24 die as Pakistani Taliban storm Pak university named after ‘Frontier Gandhi’,
Charsadda (Pakistan) : At least 24 people, mostly students, were massacred on Wednesday by Kalashnikov-wielding suicide attackers who stormed a prestigious university here in northwestern Pakistan and opened fire.
Omar Mansoor, the Peshawar school attack mastermind and a commander of the Hakimullah Mehsud faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban, claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s assault. He called local media from a mobile number in Afghanistan to make the claim.
The Talban had supposedly weakened after the Pak military launched an offensive in North Waziristan, but the attack on Wednesday suggests that that they are still a dangerous force.
The gunmen entered the Bacha Khan University named after iconic leader Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and opened fire on students and teachers in classrooms and hostels. They had used the cover of thick, wintry fog to scale the walls of the university before entering buildings. The security forces were, however, able to kill the four attackers before they could detonate suicide vests. Eight students, a professor and a staffer were also killed in the attack.
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. There were about 3,000 students and 600 guests on the campus when the attack took place, the Vice Chancellor said.
A spokesman of the Pakistani Taliban said they wanted to avenge the execution in December of four men convicted of aiding the 2014 Peshawar school attackers. The attacks would continue, he warned.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack. “We are determined and resolved in our commitment to wipe out the menace of terrorism from our homeland,” he said in a statement from Switzerland, where he was attending the World Economic Forum.
An official at university told the New York Times that when she and her colleagues realized they were under attack, they locked the door of their office, turned off the lights and lay on the floor. She said many of the students were killed in their dormitories.
Sajjad Ahmed, a professor of sociology and gender studies, was quoted by the newspaper as saying he saw the attackers shoot a dozen students. “I will not forget this terrible scene for rest of my life,” he said. “Students were falling like someone was cutting down newly blossomed flowers.”
The Inter-Services Public Relations chief said the terrorists’ phone calls had been traced. Two cell phones had also been recovered. The victims were mostly shot in the head or chest. Images from the varsity campus showed a pool of blood on the floor of a dormitory and charred corpses of two alleged militants lying on a staircase. An emergency has been declared in all hospitals in the town. All schools have been closed in the area. Professor Hamid Hussain of chemistry department, who heroically fought back attackers, was among the dead.