LivePakistan university attack: Latest

Summary

  1. Gunmen have attacked Bacha Khan University near Peshawar
  2. At least 19 people have been killed, police say
  3. Four gunmen have been killed and the firing has stopped
  4. Taliban spokesman denies responsibility, contradicting earlier claim
  5. About 3,000 students are enrolled at the university
  6. All times GMT

Live Reporting

By Tom Spender, Joel Gunter and Tessa Wong

Summary

We are going to pause our live coverage here for now. Below is a summary of what we know so far. You can follow developments on our main news story: 

Pakistan Charsadda: Deadly assault on university

What we know so far

  • An attack by suspected Taliban militants on a university in north-west Pakistan has killed at least 19 people and injured 50.
  • An army official said the attack was over but troops were still searching Bacha Khan University campus in Charsadda.
  • Four attackers were killed, the army reported.
  • A senior Pakistan Taliban commander claimed the group was responsible for the attack but the main spokesman for the group later denied that it was involved.
  • Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said: "We are determined and resolved in our commitment to wipe out the menace of terrorism from our homeland."  

Conflicting claims of responsibility for attack

M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad

There have been conflicting claims about who was behind the attack, with a senior Taliban commander initially claiming responsibility, only for the group's main spokesman to deny any involvement.

The confusion is perhaps no surprise, given a kaleidoscopic mix of militant networks along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region in the north.

The attack comes amid a sudden spike in militant violence in Pakistan, after a year of relative peace and quiet attributed to a 2014 military operation against militants in Waziristan. 

Questions are now being raised over whether that operation really destroyed the ability of militants to regroup and strike at will.

This attack is reminiscent of the December 2014 attack on a school in Peshawar, in which more than 150 people, mostly schoolboys, were killed. Damage to life and property this time has been much less, partly due to swift action by the local police but also because the university had its own team of more than 50 trained security guards.

A dense fog that reduced visibility to less than 10 metres may also have been a factor.

AFP/Getty

Opposition leader Imran Khan condemns 'cowardly attack'

Imran Khan, head of the opposition PTI which governs Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, has described the attack as "cowardly".

The cricketer-turned-politician is travelling to the scene.

Strongly condemn cowardly terrorist attack on Bacha Khan Uni Charsadda today. The nation stands united & resolute against terrorism.

Student: 'My friend jumped from a building during the attack'

A witness told local TV how a friend leapt from a high window to escape the militants, who were chanting "Allah is the greatest".

What we know so far

  • An attack by suspected Taliban militants on a university in north-west Pakistan has killed at least 19 people and injured 50.
  • An army official said the attack was over but troops were still searching Bacha Khan University campus in Charsadda.
  • Four attackers were killed, the army reported.
  • A senior Pakistan Taliban commander claimed the group was responsible for the attack but the main spokesman for the group later denied that it was involved.
  • Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said: "We are determined and resolved in our commitment to wipe out the menace of terrorism from our homeland."  
AP

BreakingPakistan Taliban spokesman denies group carried out attack

The main spokesman for the Pakistan Taliban - the TTP - has denied that the group carried out the attack.

In a statement, Mohammad Khurasani described the attack as "un-Islamic" and said the group would hold people accountable for using its name.

His statement contradicts a senior Pakistan Taliban commander, who earlier claimed that the group was responsible for the attack.

Tributes paid to 'hero' chemistry professor who 'fought back'

Twitter users in Pakistan and beyond have been paying tribute to Syed Hamid Hussain, a Chemistry professor at the university who reportedly fired back at the militants before he was shot dead.

Chemistry professor Syed Hamid Hussain hailed a hero after firing back against the militants before being shot dead.

Photo of Professor Hamid Hussain, martyred in terrorist attack on Bacha Khan University | geo.tv/latest/100438

Martyred Astt Professor Hamid Hussain is survived by a son, a daughter and young widow: a cousin #BachaKhanUniversity attack

University was 'soft target'

ARY News' online editor Omar Qurashi has told the BBC that the university appears to have been chosen because it was an easy target:

It's a soft target, it's a private university in a town that's not in one of the major cities in the country where security measures have gone up.... So I think it's been chosen for that reason and to send a message again.

Because of the military's on-going operation against the Taliban in the tribal areas. They're trying to send a message to them that 'You're still vulnerable'.

AFP/Getty

'We saw three terrorists'

AFP have quoted a student who was speaking to Pakistani TV:

We saw three terrorists shouting, 'Allah is great!' and rushing towards the stairs of our department...One student jumped out of the classroom through the window. We never saw him get up

The student also described seeing a chemistry professor holding a pistol and firing at the attackers.  

Then we saw him fall down and as the terrorists entered the office we ran away

More on the Taliban claim

AFP say they have spoken to a Pakistani Taliban commander, who says his group was behind the attack. Speaking by telephone from an undisclosed location, Umar Mansoor said it was in response to a military offensive against extremists in the tribal areas.  

Our four suicide attackers carried out the attack on Bacha Khan University today

Umar Mansoor Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistani (TTP) leader

Govt asks media not to reveal troop movements

Pakistan's media regulator Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has asked the media not to reveal the movements of security personnel or students, Radio Pakistan reports.

#BachaKhanUniAttack PEMRA directs all media channels not to identify movement of security personnel, students while covering the event.

'Inadequate security' at university

Parents are saying that security arrangements at Bacha Khan University were not good enough, according to Reuters Pakistan correspondent Mehreen Zahra-Malik.

Many parents saying inadequate security arrangements at #BachaKhanUniversity entrance even though KP province under red alert. #Pakistan

#Pakistan has highest number of people killed by country (450) in #school attacks; #Russia follows with 361 killed dawn.com/news/1222915/w…

AFP: Taliban claim attack

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack, AFP reports.

Local Pakistani media have also reported the Taliban claim.

'Intense gunfire' at university

The BBC's Shahzeb Jillani has more details on the attack:

The gunmen entered the university by climbing over the back wall. Intense gunfire and explosions were heard as security guards fought the attackers. Students and staff ran to find cover in bathrooms and examination halls.

By the time police and Pakistani army commandos arrived, several students and staff members were dead and dozens of others wounded. Most people have now been evacuated. The army says it is conducting a search operation to clear the area.

At least four people seriously hurt

At least four seriously injured people have been rushed to Peshawar's Lady Reading hospital, the BBC's Ilyas Khan reports.

Casualties evacuated

These photos from the Reuters news agency show people injured in the attack being evacuated and treated by medical staff.

Reuters
Reuters
Reuters

Express Tribune: More than 30 injured

Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune is quoting officials as saying more than 30 people have been injured.

AFP: Police say operation over, 21 dead

AFP news agency is quoting police as saying that the death toll has risen to 21, with most of the student victims shot dead inside a male hostel on campus. They add that security forces have ended the operation against the gunmen and are clearing the area.

Pakistani military on the scene

The Pakistani military launched an operation against the gunmen, with a helicopter in support.

Reuters
Reuters
Reuters

Region beset by violence

BBC

The main challenge in the region where Charsadda is located is the rise in violence, especially that committed by the Taliban, says the BBC's Shazeb Jillani. 

The region is governed by the opposition party PTI, headed by the former cricketer Imran Khan. Though Mr Khan has long advocated for dialogue, he has been calling for tougher action in recent months, particularly after the 2014 Peshawar school attack.

'We heard firing'

Student Aizaz Khan was in the university when the attack began. He told Reuters news agency:

"We heard firing from the back of the campus. We thought maybe some people were fighting. Then the firing increased. Then we said: 'Get into the rooms. Don't go out'. Then the security forces came. They showed great bravery. The Pakistani army also showed great bravery."

Rescue official: 'Eight dead'

Reuters

Rescue officials say they have recovered eight bodies. These are reported to include four security guards, a policeman, a chemistry professor and two female students.

Four gunmen are also said to have been killed.

Some reports suggest the number of casualties could be higher.

AFP: One teacher 'was armed'

AFP news agency has quoted geology student Zahoor Ahmed as saying that he tried to leave his hostel after hearing shots fired. "(We) were stopped by our chemistry lecturer who advised us to go inside. He was holding a pistol in his hand," he said. 

Pakistan has been allowing teachers to carry weapons following the 2014 Peshawar school attack.

Students and staff leave university by main gate

People are evacuated from the Bacha Khan University during an attack by militants, in Charsadda, northwestern Pakistan in this still frame taken from a video released by ARY News 20 January 2016.

Attackers 'took advantage of low visibility'

The BBC's Shahzeb Jillani says that the university had security guards posted at the main gate, but the attackers knew how to enter from the back, and took advantage of the low visibility caused by thick fog blanketing the area in the morning. Once spotted they began firing.

Eyewitness saw students escape

Dr Shakoor, an assistant professor with the university, turned back from the main gate of the campus as he arrived this morning after being told that the premises were under attack. 

He told the BBC's Ilyas Khan that many students were streaming out of that gate, apparently because attackers had entered the campus from the backyard where there is a university guesthouse.

University of 'symbolic value' to Islamists

The Pashtun nationalist movement from which Bacha Khan university draws its name were opposed to the Afghan Islamist resistance against the Russians during the 1980s and also oppose the Taliban, notes the BBC's Ilyas Khan. 

As such, an attack on the university holds symbolic value to Islamists.

Students 'fired on during poetry reading'

BBC

The Bacha Khan University is a public university approximately 15km from the main city of Charsadda. Geo News reports that it is named after a Pashtun nationalist leader from the Partition era.

The gunmen opened fire on students and faculty members as they gathered at the school for a poetry recital to commemorate Mr Khan, Dawn reported.

Express Tribune: 'Taliban claims responsibility'

Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune is reporting that the Pakistani Taliban, also known as TTP, has claimed responsibility for the attack on the university.

Evacuations continue

Two distraught-looking men were seen escaping from the campus earlier.

Reuters / ARY News

Security forces surround university

Pakistani military and police have taken up positions around the perimeter of the campus.

AFP/Getty Images