At least 20 people have been killed and about 50 wounded in a gun and bomb attack Wednesday at a university in northwestern Pakistan. Four suspected attackers also died in a battle that lasted nearly three hours at Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, outside Peshawar.

Although there are conflicting reports about whether Taliban militants carried out the assault, in 2014 the group killed 145 people, most of them students, at a school 25 miles away.

Pakistan has escalated counterterrorism operations since 2013, waging campaigns in tribal areas in the country’s mountainous northwest that have long been strongholds for the Taliban, al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.

The New York Times reports:

The dead included two female students, a senior faculty member and four guards, said Fakhr-i-Alam, the senior government official. A Pakistani military spokesman, Lt. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa, has said that at least four attackers were killed in exchanges of fire with the security forces. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault.

Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, condemned the attack, which had “reportedly resulted into the loss of precious human lives and injured many others,” according to an official statement.

“Bomb disposal people are on the spot defusing suicide vests,” said Mr. Fakhr-i-Alam. “The operation is over, clearance and search is on.”

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban called reporters in Peshawar to claim responsibility for the attack and say that four of their men were involved.

A school official said 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. “The university has its own security staff, but it’s not adequate enough to face the well-armed and -trained Taliban,” said the official, Salma Khan.

She said many of the students were killed in their dormitories. “Our resolve of educating our children cannot be shaken by such cowardly acts,” she said.

Kasib Jan, a student, told ARY TV that he had seen four or five gunmen with black turbans shouting “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great.”

“They were firing all around,” he said. “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.”

Read more here.

This BBC News video describes the scene after the attack.

–Posted by Roisin Davis


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