(From Dawn, AP, AFP, PTI)
Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Lt Gen Asim Bajwa said late Wednesday that major breakthroughs have been made in identifying the terrorists who attacked the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda earlier in the day leaving at least 21 people dead.
The terrorists’ phone calls had been traced and analysed, and two cell phones had also been recovered from them.
“When army reached the premises, all four attackers were alive. They were contained in the hostel and were eventually eliminated on the roof and the stairs,” Bajwa said. They had a lot of ammo, including grenades.
“Their call logs were analysed and an intelligence picture was established, with most data having been collected,” he said. “We have gathered almost all relevant data on who they (attackers) were, from where they came and who supported them.”
But the ISPR chief said the information is “sensitive” and is being “processed and updated,” which will be shared with the public later.
“We cleared the sanctuaries of terrorists after which certain people crossed the border towards Afghanistan and are operating from there. That aspect is also under investigation,” he maintained.
Bajwa said terrorists were getting instructions from outside and were receiving calls.
“They (terrorists) are targeting symbols of progress. We are fighting a war against faceless bas***** (terrorists).”
The ISPR chief said, “As long as the facilitators and financiers of terrorists are present, they can carry out an attack at any place and time. What matters is how we respond to this as a nation.”
Intelligence-based operations (IBOs) are being carried out to hunt down the facilitators of the terrorists involved in Charsadda attack, he said.
Around 9.30 am, unidentified gunmen entered Bacha Khan University and opened fire on students, faculty members and guests who had gathered for a poetry recital to commemorate the death anniversary of the peace activist and leader Bacha Khan whom the institution is named after.
The mastermind of the APS Peshawar attack, Umar Mansoor, of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Geedar group claimed the attack through a post on his Facebook page, adding that four attackers were sent to the university.
However, a spokesperson from the TTP, Mohammad Khorasani, issued a conflicting statement shortly after Mansoor’s claim, in which Khorasani condemned the attack, terming it as “against Shariah”.
As the military announced the end of the clearance operation, mass casualties were feared in the attack reminiscent of the deadly December 2014 terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar which left over 140 dead — most of them students.
Sources said the attackers were wearing suicide vests but were killed by security forces before they could detonate their explosives.
Security personnel, including SSG personnel, went inside the school to control the situation. They later cordoned off a one-storey house, situated around a kilometer from the university’s boundary wall, where three terrorists were believed to be holed up. It was later declared clear by military personnel.
The terrorists gave stiff resistance to security forces over several hours. Intelligence sources initially said eight to 10 terrorists were inside the school, adding they were between 18 and 25 years old, wearing civilian clothes and had their faces covered.
Most of the victims shot dead were from a hostel for boys on the campus.
The medical superintendent at District Headquarter Hospital, Charsadda confirmed 18 dead. DHQ Charsadda’s officials said victims had cuts on the bodies, probably inflicted by a sharp-edged weapon.
An Edhi volunteer earlier said he had seen the bodies of at least 15 persons.
The critically injured victims were shifted to the Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar.
At least three to four security guards were injured, a witness, who managed to come out of the premises, said. The Associated Press quoted police saying gunmen killed two students and Dr Syed Hamid Hussain, an assistant professor who taught organic chemistry.
DIG Saeed Wazir said all students have been evacuated from the hostels, but militants are still hiding in different parts of the university and some students and staff are stuck inside.
A rescue official talking to DawnNews quoted a rescued student as claiming that 60 to 70 students had been shot in the head by the attackers. The claim could not be independently verified.
Professor’s heroic act
In a heroic act, Dr Hussain, 34, fought back against the terrorists as he warned students not to leave the university building.
Students spoke of the teacher who flashed his pistol but was gunned down by the militants along with others.
Geology student Zahoor Ahmed said Hussain had warned him not to leave the building after the first shots were fired.
“He was holding a pistol in his hand,” he said. “Then I saw a bullet hit him. I saw two militants were firing. I ran inside and then managed to flee by jumping over the back wall.”
Another student told television reporters he was in class when he heard gunshots.
“We saw three terrorists shouting slogans and rushing towards the stairs of our department,” he said as he described seeing the chemistry professor holding a pistol and firing at the attackers.
“Then we saw him fall and as the terrorists entered the (registrar) office, we ran away,” said the student.
President Mamnoon Hussain condoled the professor’s death.