Terrorists Shift to Soft Targets in Pakistan, Hit University A Year After a School in KP, Over 120 Killed
Initial pictures of the terror attack (Courtesy: Dawn)
NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD: Ironical, and certainly not a coincidence that terrorists decided to attack Bacha Khan University, Charsadda, near Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, named after freedom fighter Abdul Ghaffar Khan. At least 20, probably more persons have been killed and scores of students and teachers injured. Four terrorists were killed, and after the combing operation the Army announced this as the final number.
However, the death count is expected to rise as the bodies are still being recovered from the scene of the carnage.
An official Facebook post from the University read, even as news of the attack spread: “
Bacha Khan University Charsadda (OFFICIAL)
University · 6,358 Likes
· 13 mins · Nisatta, Pakistan ·
20 to 50 feared martyred this morning as 4 to 10 terrorists attacked our?#BachaKhanUniversityCharsadda? taking advantage of heavy fog by entering through the back wall near Boys Hostel and started firing with heavy weapons indiscriminately. Blasts were heard too. 19 confirmed dead including a Professor (Mr Hamid, Chemistry Department), 2 females, 2 guards and a policeman. More feared martyred. The attack took place 13 minutes past 9 in the morning. Police rushed to the scene immediately in the heavy fog followed by army and there was chaos of students escaping and concerned relatives and friends. Today a Pashto poetry function was planned to mark the Death Anniversary of Pashtun leader Bacha Khan.
Unidentified gunmen entered the University, scaling the walls and opened fire on students and faculty members who were gathering for a poetry recital to commemorate the death anniversary of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan also known as the Frontier Gandhi, for his commitment to non-violence and peace.
The attack has been claimed by Omar Mansoor, of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) h on his Facebook page, adding that four attackers were sent to the university.Sources told reporters at the spot that the four attackers were wearing suicide vests but were killed by security forces' before they could detonate their explosives.
The attack comes just over a year after the same group hit the Army Public School in Peshawar, in the deadliest terror attack in Pakistan. Nearly 150 persons were killed, with the list including over 132 children. This had resulted in widespread condemnation with the TTP being attacked by all sections in Pakistan for the outrageous attack. It has repeated the same, targeting students, and killing at least 120 with the numbers expected to rise, at the University.
The University is new, having been established on July 3, 2012 with the “message of peace and universal brotherhood as practiced and preached by Abdul Ghaffar Khan”. It came to existence with the pledge to “induct Pakistan into the comity of respectable nations of the world.” This was clearly a red rag to the terrorist bull with the attack being planned for the morning where a maximum number of students and faculty were expected to gather.
Military spokesperson Lt.Gen Asim Bajwa said four attackers have been killed. Security personnel, including SSG personnel went inside the school to control the situation.
Security forces cordoned off a one-storey house, situated around a kilometre from the university's boundary wall, where three terrorists were believed to be holed up. It was later declared clear by military personnel. Intelligence sources told the media that the terrorists were between 18 and 25 years old, wearing civilian clothes and had their faces covered. They were wearing suicide vests but were killed before they could detonate explosives on their bodies.
The Pakistan Army has been carrying out intense anti-terror operations in the area with military operations in the Khyber tribals being declared mid last year as “successful.” This followed the huge military operations in North Waziristan Operation Zarb-i-Azb that is reported to have cleared the ‘terror groups’ from the area but with huge casualties on all sides.
This was followed by Operation Khyber-2 where the Army lost 50-100 men, according to reports at the time, but succeeded in flushing out militants of the Pakistan Tehreek e Taliban. This came to an end in June last year with the military claiming, as reported in the Dawn newspaper at the time, of having “gained control of strategically important areas, depriving Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and Lashkar-i-Islam of space in one of their toughest strongholds in the tribal regions. The military, the sources said, had also taken physical control of the three passes from Afghanistan into Tirah – Mzatal, Kandao Gharibi and Dramudrad situated at 7,300 to 9,300 feet altitude above the sea level.
Two of the passes have been physically taken over by the military, while the third is under direct fire power, thus putting an end to any movement through that pass.”
The attack now is being compared to the terror assault on the Army Public School in Peshawar---that was followed by the large scale military operations---on December 16, 2014 when seven gunmen of the Pakistan TTP attacked and killed 148 students and others, injuring hundreds. This was the deadliest terror attack on Pakistan, and led to intense counter-terror operations by the Pakistan military. The ease with which the gunmen have attacked the University now will certainly lead to a review of the operations, as the militants despite the crackdown have still the resources and the support of logistics to inflict large scale damage. Clearly instead of attacking government installations, they are looking at soft targets like schools and Universities with the anger against the terrorists growing in the rest of Pakistan.