On early Wednesday morning, an unidentified group of militants opened fire on students and faculty members at Bacha Khan University in Charsadda in northwest Pakistan.
Police in Pakistan said that they took advantage of thick fog and used it as cover. It is reported that they entered the university by scaling the low boundary walls of the University.
The University has 3,000 students on its rolls and many students came today to commemorate the death anniversary of the activist and leader after whom the university is named.
At least 21 have been killed and 20 are reportedly injured.
Regional police chief Saeed Wazir said that four militants have been killed by the army.
— Dawn.com (@dawn_com) January 20, 2016
The operation has ended and security forces are clearing the area, according to Wazir.
“We fear some of the militants have fled into the nearby fields. Army troops have been sent to search for them,” said DIG Mardan.
Dr Syed Hamid Hussain, an assistant professor who taught organic chemistry, was killed. Eyewitness accounts hint at the bravery of the professor.
Geology student Zahoor Ahmed said:
“We were stopped by our chemistry lecturer who advised us to go inside. He was holding a pistol in his hand. Then I saw a bullet hit him. I saw two militants were firing. I ran inside and then managed to flee by jumping over the back wall.”
One of the students said, “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.”
He added that there was firing between attackers and security forces and after everything was over, the army men knocked on their room and told them they were safe.
Emergency imposed, Clearance Underway
An emergency has been imposed in all hospitals in the town and schools have been closed. The area is being monitored by aerial assets and snipers are still at their positions around the premises.
Military spokesperson Lt.Gen Asim Bajwa tweeted:
Charsadda Update:clearance of university block by block continues by Army troops.No firing being heard
— AsimBajwa (@AsimBajwaISPR) January 20, 2016
Condemnation pours in
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued a statement from Zurich.:
“Those killing innocent students and citizens have no faith and religion. We are determined and resolved in our commitment to wipe out the menace of terrorism from our homeland.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, condemned the attack:
Strongly condemn the terror attack at Bacha Khan University in Pakistan. Condolences to families of the deceased. Prayers with the injured.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 20, 2016
And so did others in Pakistan:
President Mamnoon Hussain condemns terrorist attack at Bacha Khan University, #Charsadda
— Radio Pakistan (@RadioPakistan) January 20, 2016
One year after Peshawar what changed? Hundreds of death penalty executions were an eyewash. Innocents everywhere still vulnerable to terror
— fatima bhutto (@fbhutto) January 20, 2016
— Faisal Karim Kundi (@fkkundi) January 20, 2016
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party has strongly condemned terrorists attack on Bacha Khan… https://t.co/lWRimAwFHn
— BilawalBhuttoZardari (@BBhuttoZardari) January 20, 2016
TTP claims responsibility
An umbrella organisation of various Islamist militant groups, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), have claimed responsibility for the attack.
The attack is reminiscent of the deadly 2014 Peshawar school attack which killed 14o, most of them students.