Peshawar– At least nine people were killed on Friday in Pakistan after three militants dressed in burkas attacked the hostel of Peshawar’s Agricultural Training Institute, officials said.
The attack was claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Both police and military officials said the attackers had been coordinating with handlers based in Afghanistan.
The provincial police chief said six students, the institute’s gatekeeper, and two civilians were among the dead. One police officer, two soldiers and a journalist were among the injured, he said.
Security forces neutralised the miliants soon after the attack was reported. They were assisted by military helicopters conducting aerial surveillance of the premises.
The militants shot and wounded a security guard before storming into the building near the university’s Department of Agriculture.
Ordinarily, there are around 400 students at the hostel but there were only some 150 on Friday on account of Eid Milad-un-Nabi, the birthday of Prophet Mohammad, said a student who witnessed the attack.
As the militants began firing, the frightened students ran to take shelter. Some were shot and wounded while others jumped out of the windows, the witness said.
A student told Dawn news: “The terrorists shot at everyone who was roaming around and they were breaking doors down to attack students. Thankfully security personnel reached the hostel before those men came to our room — that is why we are alive.”
The TTP, in a statement said that three of its combatants carried out the attack.
It said the attackers had killed dozens and claimed that the institute was not a university but “an undercover centre” of the Pakistani intelligence agency the ISI.
“This attack is a reaction to the continued brutalities by the intelligence agencies of Pakistan on Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and innocent people especially prisoners and clerics,” the group said.
Suicide jackets, three grenades, two bombs and a pistol were recovered from the hostel building.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak said that although the police were “always alert, this incident happened suddenly”, Dawn news reported.
“The police arrived and took control… Security measures have been taken keeping Eid Milad-un-Nabi in view. Our police was there soon after the firing started… Right now we are facing difficult circumstances.”
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi strongly condemned the terrorist attack.
This is not the first attack on a university in Pakistan.
The TTP attacked the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda in January 2016 and left 25 people dead.
The worst attack against an educational institution occurred in December 2014 when insurgents attacked a school in Peshawar, leaving 151 people dead, mostly children.
Pakistan has launched several military operations against insurgent groups throughout the country in recent months following multiple major attacks in 2017.
Peshawar has for decades witnessed militancy at close quarters as it is seen as a frontline in the war against terrorism as well as due to its proximity to the restless tribal areas and the Pakistan-Afghan border.