Bacha Khan: at least 19 dead in attack on Pakistan university

Taliban denies responsibility after four men wearing suicide vests open fire on campus

Bacha Khan
Rescuers help an injured man following an attack at Bacha Khan University in Pakistan
(Image credit: Hasham Ahmed)

At least 19 people have been killed and dozens wounded in a gun attack on a university in Pakistan.

Four armed men in suicide vests opened fire at the Bacha Khan University campus in Charsadda, in the north-west of the country.

Local media reports the attack appeared to have begun at a hostel for male students, although the victims include both men and women. The gunmen climbed over a wall to reach the building at around 9.30am local time (4.30am GMT), before firing indiscriminately on students and staff.

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"They were directly shooting at the heads of the students," one student named Naseer told The Guardian.

Eyewitness reports suggest that grenades or suicide bombings may have also formed part of the attack.

Soldiers were rushed in from the provincial capital, Peshawar, to help police clear the campus while anxious relatives waited for news outside the gates. A spokesman for the army later tweeted that all four known gunmen had been killed by security forces.

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There have been conflicting estimates of the number killed, ranging from 19 and 31 victims. However, this is likely to be revised to a far higher figure, with one witness telling The Guardian he counted 56 bodies.

Charsadda is located in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which has long been a centre of unrest and terrorist militancy. In 2014, an armed assault by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants killed 141 people, mostly children, at a military school in Peshawar, which lies 30 miles from Bacha Khan University.

According to reports, the same group at first claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attack, but this was later denied by an official spokesman, who said the assault was "un-Islamic".

One faculty member told the BBC he suspected the attacks may have been connected to a planned poetry event honouring the university's namesake, Pashtun nationalist Bacha Khan. Khan's grandson leads the secular Awami National Party, which has opposed the Taliban since the 1980s.

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