CHARSADDA / PESHAWAR / ISLAMABAD: At least 21 people died when gunmen armed with grenades and Kalashnikovs attacked a university in Charsadda Wednesday, as security forces moved in under thick fog to halt the bloodshed.
The militants, using the cover of thick, wintry fog, scaled the walls of the Bacha Khan University before entering buildings and opening fire on students and teachers in classrooms and hostels, police said.
The gunmen attacked as the university prepared to host a poetry to commemorate the death anniversary of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a popular ethnic Pashtun independence activist after whom the university is named.
The attack comes a little over a year after Taliban gunmen stormed Army Public School in December 2014 and slaughtered more than 150 people, most of them children, in an hours-long siege.
What we know so far:
– 21 killed, over 30 injured
– Four militants killed during operation
– TTP claims responsibility for attack
Turkish President expresses grief over Charsadda attack
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan telephoned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and expressed condolences over the attack.
According to a statement, the two leaders agreed terrorism was the common enemy and joint efforts were needed to eliminate the menace.
Breakthrough achieved in identifying attackers: DG ISPR
DG ISPR Lt Gen Asim Bajwa says security forces have gathered satisfactory information about the attackers on Bacha Khan University.
“We have gathered all relevant data about where these terrorists came from and who sent them,” he said while addressing the media.
“The terrorists were continuously conversing on their mobile phones, two of which we have recovered and collected data from,” he added.
Bajwa said it was a major success of the forces that within 45 minutes, the terrorists were contained inside the varsity.
“There were 52 guards of the Bacha Khan University who responded to the attackers, whereas within a short span of time LEAs also reached the site,” he said.
Prime minister appreciates sentiment expressed by Modi
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appreciated the sentiment expressed by the prime minister of India with regards to the terrorist attack in Charsadda, said a Foreign Office statement.
“This incident is yet another reminder that terrorism is our common enemy and a cooperative approach is essential to eliminate it from the region.”
Afghanistan condemns university attack
Condemning the terrorist attack in Charsadda, Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar termed it an attack on the peaceful ideology of BachaKhan.
He extended condolences to the families of the deceased and prayers for the recovery of the injured.
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai also condemned the attack.
Eye witness’ account
An official at the Bacha Khan University says when she and her colleagues realised they were under attack, they locked the door of their office, turned off the lights and lay on the floor, reports The New York Times.
“The university has its own security staff, but it’s not adequate enough to face the well-armed and -trained Taliban,” says the official, Salma Khan. She says many of the students were killed in their dormitories.
“Our resolve of educating our children cannot be shaken by such cowardly acts,” she adds.
Sajjad Ahmed, a professor of sociology and gender studies, says he saw the attackers shoot a dozen students.
“I will not forget this terrible scene for rest of my life,” he says, adding “Students were falling like someone was cutting down newly blossomed flowers.”
“They were firing all around,” Kasib Jan, a student, says. “University security guards first engaged them, but it was beyond their capacities. We hid behind the benches in the classrooms. We heard them walking around, but they moved away. We came out and ran away to safety,” he adds.
PM, COAS discuss Charsadda attack
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief General Raheel Sharif speak by phone to discuss the terrorist attack at the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, our correspondent Kamran Yousaf reports.
Army chief arrives at Peshawar Corps Headquarters
Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif arrives at the Pakistan Army’s Corps Headquarters in Peshawar to chair a special security conference, DG ISPR says.
“The special security conference is being attended by all concerned officials including intelligence men,” his Twitter message reads.
K-P govt releases names of those injured in attack
Operation ends with four gunmen dead: army
Authorities conclude the operation to clear Bacha Khan University, DG ISPR Asim Bajwa confirmed on Wednesday afternoon.
“The operation is over and the university has been cleared,” Bajwa told Reuters, adding that “Four gunmen have been killed.”
The militants, using the cover of thick, wintry fog, scaled the walls of the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, before entering buildings and opening fire on students and teachers in classrooms and hostels.
Army chief arrives at Bacha Khan University
Army chief General Raheel Sharif arrives in Charsadda in wake of the attack at Bacha Khan University, Express News reports.
Injured being shifted away from university premises
Weapons used in the attack recovered
The security forces have recovered arms and ammunition carried by the attackers, including suicide vests and AK-47 rifles.
TTP sends warning of further attacks
Universities, cadet colleges and army schools will be targeted in Pakistan, the TTP warns while claiming the attack, our correspondent Riaz Ahmed reports.
Meanwhile, PPP Senator Sherry Rehman questions the lack of security despite threats to schools in the province.
Modi condemns attack
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has condemned the attack in Charsadda.
Schools to remain closed for 10 days
The Education Department Charsadda has announced the closure of all schools for 10 days, our correspondent Mureeb Mohmand reports.
PM summons federal ministers
The premier has directed federal ministers Pervaiz Rashid, Abdul Qadir Baloch and Baleeghur Rehman to reach Charsadda.
‘Two suicide vests found’
DIG Charsadda Police claims at least two suicide jackets were found at the scene, that failed to be blown up by militants, before they were gunned down by army personnel.
Although, stringent security arrangements were in place at the university, the attackers still manage to get inside the premises.
Eyewitness recalls moment gunmen stormed university
Students speak of hero teacher, Hamid Hussain
Students spoke of one hero teacher — named by media as Syed Hamid Hussain — fighting back against the intruders, shooting his weapon in a bid to protect his charges.
Geology student Zahoor Ahmed said his chemistry lecturer had warned him not to leave the building after the first shots were fired.
“He was holding a pistol in his hand,” he said.
“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.”
Another student told television reporters he was in class when he heard gunshots. “We saw three terrorists shouting, ‘Allah is great!’ and rushing towards the stairs of our department,” he said.
“One student jumped out of the classroom through the window. We never saw him get up.”
He also described seeing the chemistry professor holding a pistol and firing at the attackers.
“Then we saw him fall down and as the terrorists entered the (registrar) office we ran away.”
President Mamnoon Hussain confirmed the lecturer, Dr Hamid, had died.
PTI chairman departs for Charsadda from Bani Gala, condemns attack
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan has strongly condemned the terror attack on the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda.
“I have been monitoring this attack since the morning and I am constantly in contact with K-P’s chief secretary,” the PTI chief tells newsmen outside his residence in Bani Gala before departing for Charsadda.
K-P Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, who is currently in Scotland, has been asked to cut his trip short and return to Pakistan as soon as possible, Imran says.
“The whole nation is united against terrorism and all the institutions are on one page,” the PTI leader says, adding he will personally visit the place to identify any loopholes in the security arrangements of the university.
Students safely evacuated
“Around 200 students have been safely evacuated from an examination hall in the university,” K-P Public Health Engineering Minister Shah Farman says.
Soldiers gather outside Bacha Khan University
Condemnations pour in
Eye witness’ account
A university office assistant, Atique Rehman says he was in his office while the terrorists entered the university premises from the back.
Students from the arts and social sciences department were gathering in the Ghani Khan Hall when the attack took place. The university canteen and a boys hostel were also targeted, he adds.
Further, he says that one student took shelter in the bathroom as his room-mates came under attack.
Death toll continues to rise
As the operation commences within the university, the death toll has risen to 21.
“21 people have been killed and over 30 have been injured,” DIG Mardan said, our correspondent Irfan Ghauri reports.
“We fear some of the militants have fled into the nearby fields. Army troops have been sent to search for them,” he adds.
Pakistan Army’s elite commandos enter premises
A team of SSG commandos enters the university as the operation continues, our correspondent, Irfan Ghauri reports.
A rescue source says 15 have been killed while 20 remain injured. However, only eight bodies have been pulled out so far.
Meanwhile, PTI MPA Shaukat Yousufzai said over 20 people have been killed. “The situation inside is bad and we expect the death toll to rise,” he adds.
Rescue efforts underway
Photos: Mureeb Mohmand
Four militants killed
DG ISPR Asim Bajwa confirms four militants have been killed in the ongoing operation in the university.
Seven killed, 12 injured
Seven people have been killed in the attack so far, while casualties are feared to rise.
“Seven people have been killed so far and casualties are feared to rise,” Rescue 1122 spokesperson says, adding that “90% of the university has been cleared.”
University professor, Hamid Hussain, among dead
University professor, Hamid Hussain, was killed in the attack. Identities of others killed are yet to be ascertained.
President Mamnoon Hussain condemns attack
Meanwhile, PPP Senator, Sherry Rehman also condemns the attack.
PM condemns attack
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has expressed deep grief over the loss of precious human lives as a result of the terror attack on Bacha Khan University, a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s office said on Wednesday.
The premier, who is currently in Switzerland to attend the 46th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, is said to be personally monitoring the situation as he is being continuously informed on the measures taken to tackle the terrorists.
Meanwhile, condemning the attack of the terrorists, PM Nawaz said 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. The countless sacrifices made by our countrymen will not go in vain,” said the prime minister.
TTP claim responsibility
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have claimed responsibility for the attack on Bacha Khan University, our correspondent Riaz Ahmed reports.
TTP commander, Omar Mansoor, said that the attack was carried out by four attackers.
As the operation continues in the university premises ISPR statement confirms the terrorists have been contained.
Police say most of the students have been rescued, but gunmen are still believed to be on second and third floors of the campus.
Army troops arrive at the scene
Army troops arrive at the scene and cordoned off the area around Bacha Khan University, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations, Asim Bajwa tweets.
University guards injured
Officials say two guards have been injured at the university gate. Meanwhile, extensive firing continues in the area and heavy contingents of elite force have been deployed. All schools have been closed in Charsadda following the attack.
Operation launched inside university
Deputy Inspector General Saeed Wazir told Reuters that the number of gunmen was unclear but police had moved into the university and a gunfight with the attackers was under way.
“We launched an operation inside the university and are trying to rescue the students and staff of the institution,” Wazir said.
The vice chancellor has said more than 3,000 students are present at the premises, while several girls are inside hostels. Members of staff also remain within the building. More than 50 students have been evacuated.
Further, “Gunmen were holed up in the Palwasha campus of Bacha Khan University,” eyewitnesses say.
Gunmen enter university premises, open fire
Gunmen entered the premises of Bacha Khan University in Charsadda early this morning and opened fire.
“The gunmen entered from the back gate of the university where the guest house is located, and began firing indiscriminately,” an eyewitness said.
Shabir Khan, a lecturer in the English department, said he was about to leave the hostel for the department when firing began.
“Most of the students and staff were in classes when the firing began,” Khan said. “I have no idea about what’s going on but I heard one security official talking on the phone to someone and said many people had been killed and injured.”
Right now, the gunmen are holed up behind a wall of the boy’s hostel,” a student, Abid Ali, who was evacuated from the university told The Express Tribune.
“Armed men stormed into the university premises early this morning,” Sardheri police officials told The Express Tribune, adding that six explosions were heard inside the building.