PESHAWAR: The cellular services were suspended across the country for security reasons on Friday, but the three terrorists who rampaged through the Agriculture Training Institute “streamed their wanton violence live on internet”, police said on Saturday.
“The terrorists used a mobile application to live-stream the attack to their handlers,” Furqan Bilal, SSP Counter-Terrorism Department, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa police, confirmed to The Express Tribune. However, he wouldn’t say which application the terrorists used for the purpose.
The police had found a mobile phone tied to the jacket of one of the dead terrorists which they believe was used to live-stream the rampage to the handlers.
The Pakistani military said on Friday that the attackers had been in contact with their handlers in Afghanistan.
The phone was taken into custody by security agencies so that it was not known if the terrorists used Facebook Live, WhatsApp or Imo to live-stream the attack.
A purported video released by the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the group that claimed credit for the cowardly attack, lends credence to the belief that the grisly violence had been live-streamed on a mobile phone application.
Nine people – including six students, a security guard and two civilians – were killed and more than 30 others sustained injuries when three terrorists, clad in burqas, entered the institute’s premises in an auto rickshaw early Friday morning and opened fire at the security near the gates before targeting the student hostel.
The early morning attack that was reminiscent of 2016 assault on a university in Charsadda was later claimed by the TTP, the outlawed umbrella of terrorist groups.
Medics at the Hayatabad Medical Complex and the Khyber Teaching Hospital, where most of the casualties were rushed, had said they had received a total of nine bodies and 38 injured, including some in critical condition. A policeman and two army men were among the injured.
On Saturday, bodies of four of the students were sent to their respective villages. The martyred students belonged to Buner, Mansehra, Frontier Region Dera Ismail Khan, Domel Bannu, Lower Dir, Shangla, Kohistan and Orakzai Agency.
According to the Khyber-Pakhtunkwa’s (K-P) police chief, IG Salahudin Khan Mehsud, the police had responded to the attack within minutes and managed to curtail the losses.
A wounded student, Ahtesham ul-Haq, had told Reuters that about 120 out of nearly 400 college residents were present during the attack, as most had gone home for a long holiday weekend.
“We were sleeping when we heard gunshots. I got up and within seconds everybody was running and shouting ‘the Taliban have attacked’,” he said.
Noor Wali, another student, described a terrifying ordeal that began when he was woken by gunshots. “I rushed to the door and saw a fountain of blood pumping out of the shoulder of my roommate who was standing outside the room,” he told AFP.
He and another student rushed to his aid, and hid from the gunmen for almost an hour before they were rescued by security forces. “We took shelter inside the bedroom and were begging the injured student not to make any sound as the terrorists might hear it and kill us,” he said.
While the police engaged the terrorists, army troops were called in. The army rescued several students as they moved from room to room in the hunt for the terrorists. “Some students got out to watch the gun battle and they were shot by the terrorists,” said student Zahid Ullah.
On Saturday, a day after the incident, an FIR was lodged on behalf of the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) with inclusion of sections related to murder, terrorism and the possession of explosives. The police have detained around a dozen people on suspicion, and interrogation with them is under way.
An official of the CTD said the police had taken into custody the rickshaw used by the attackers and sent its chassis and engines numbers for verification to the excise department.
“The DNA samples and fingerprints of the terrorists have also been collected for identification of the terrorists, who probably spent the Thursday night at some nearby place,” he added.
Meanwhile, most of the injured, admitted to the Khyber Teaching Hospital, were discharged. A total of 19 people were brought to the facility, where seven of people were still under treatment.
The TTP also claimed that its three members had actually attacked office of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). “Our three men stormed the building being used by intelligence agencies,” claimed Muhammad Khurasani, a TTP commander, in a mail sent to the media houses.
Talking to The Express Tribune, AIG Special Branch and Bomb Disposal Unit (BDU) Shafqat Malik said the terrorists were wearing explosive vests and were armed with automatic rifles as well as IED and grenades.