A group of militants has stormed a university in north-west Pakistan in an attack claimed by the Taliban that has left at least 30 dead and dozens injured.
Live Pakistan university attack: at least 30 dead as gunmen storm Bacha Khan campus – live updates
Pakistani Taliban claims responsibility for killing dozens of students at a university in north-west Pakistan
The gunmen entered Bacha Khan university in Charsadda, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, at about 9.30am local time, apparently using the cover of thick morning fog, and opened fire on students and teachers in classrooms and accommodation blocks.
A gun battle between the attackers and Pakistan security forces ensued, with television footage showing soldiers entering the campus as ambulances lined up outside the main gate and anxious parents consoled each other.
At midday local time (7am GMT) a provincial minister put the toll at 30, though unverified reports from witnesses suggested it could rise much higher.
Naseer, a 23-year-old student, said he counted 56 bodies and saw gunmen shooting male and female students “without discrimination”. “They were directly shooting at the heads of the students,” he said.
Iftikar Khan, the owner of a travel agency in Charsadda, visited the city hospital, where he estimated a stream of ambulances delivered well over 100 bodies. “A lot of them were girls,” he said.
Shabir Khan, a lecturer in the English department, said he was about to leave the hostel for the department when firing began.
“Most of the students and staff were in classes when the firing began,” Khan said.
Dozens of people were wounded. Salman Khan, an operating theatre technician at the Charsadda district hospital, said the critically injured had head and chest wounds. Fifty of the most seriously wounded have been moved to the larger Lady Reading hospital in Peshawar, the nearby provincial capital, he said.
About three hours after the attack began, the Pakistani army said the attackers were contained in two university blocks and that four of them had been killed.
“We launched an operation inside the university and are trying to rescue the students and staff of the institution,” Saeed Wazir, from the Pakistani police, told Reuters. “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.” He said the number of gunmen was unclear.
The university’s vice-chancellor, Fazal Raheem Marwat, earlier told Agence France-Presse that the gunmen entered the university campus from the southern side.
“There are male and female staff members and students on the campus,” he said, adding that he had been on his way to work when he was informed of the attack.
“There was no announced threat but we had already beefed up security at the university.”
More than 3,000 people were reported to be on the campus, which lies about 60 miles (100km) north-west of Islamabad.
A commander from the Pakistani militant group Tehreek-e-Taliban told AFP that it was responsible and that four suicide attackers were involved.
Gunmen affiliated with Tehreek-e-Taliban attacked an army school in Peshawar in December 2014, killing 132 children. Since then Pakistan has killed and arrested hundreds of suspected militants under a counter-terrorism plan enacted in the wake of the massacre. [Source: The Guardian]