AN ATTACK by militants on a university in north-western Pakistan, on Wednesday, has left at least 22 people dead and dozens wounded.
Gunmen stormed Bacha Khan University, in the city of Charsadda, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, on the border with Afghanistan, on Wednesday morning, throwing grenades and shooting. Preparations were under way for a poetry recital in the afternoon to commemorate the death of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, after whom the university is named. Khan, who died in 1988, campaigned for Pashtun independence.
The claim for responsibility, made by a Pakistani Taliban commander to Reuters on Wednesday, was later denied by an official spokesman, who described the attack as “un-Islamic” to the BBC.
It took the army six hours to complete its operations, after which four gunmen were dead, it said. On Wednesday night, 35 of the wounded remained in hospital, a local police official reported.
Bilal Ahmad Faizi, a spokesman for rescue workers, quoted by Reuters, said that 19 bodies had been recovered, including students, guards, policemen, and at least one teacher, named by media as a chemistry professor, Syed Hamid Husain. Professor Husain reportedly shot back at the gunmen with a pistol to allow his students to flee.
It is little more than a year since the Pakistani Taliban massacred more than 150 people, mostly children, at the Peshawar Army School, in the same province (News, 19 December). In 2013, a Taliban attack on All Saints’, Peshawar, left 127 people dead, and 250 injured (News, 20 September, 2013).
The Bishop of Peshawar, the Rt Revd Humphrey Peters, told Premier Christian Radio on Wednesday that Pakistanis were living “under the terrible grip of terrorism”.
“It is very, very sad, and really difficult for us to be going through all these atrocities and problems and terrorism,” he said.
He revealed that schools in the region were closed earlier this week because of a security alert, and that rumours about an attack were circulating yesterday. “And, today, this thing has happened.”
He went on: “Things are not decreasing. Always we are under threat.”
Those injured in previous attacks were still suffering, he said: “It is very difficult for them to survive and to live their lives properly.”
He made a plea to “all the Christians, and all faith-abiding people, that they should be remembering Pakistan, and especially our area, our region, in their prayers”.
A statement from the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, on Wednesday, said: “We are determined and resolved in our commitment to wipe out the menace of terrorism from our homeland.”
On New Year’s Day, the head of the Pakistani Army, General Raheel Sharif, vowed that, in 2016, it would “root out terrorism, crime, and corruption, and . . . make peace and justice prevalent in the country”.
The country observed a national day of mourning on Thursday.