More than twenty were killed in an attack on a university in northern Pakistan on Wednesday. The attack took place after a group of gunmen scaled the walls of a university in a city before the morning fog had lifted and opened fire on students and staff at the co-ed Bacha Khan University.
“They were directly shooting at the heads of the students,” Naseer, a student and witness to the carnage who gave only his first name, told the Guardian.
He said that he counted more than 50 bodies strewn across the campus. With fifty of the most gravely wounded moved to a larger hospital in nearby Peshawar for treatment, there are fears that the death toll could rise as victims of the attack succumb to their injuries.
The attack, which took place in the city of Charsadda, was claimed by a senior Pakistani Taliban commander from a faction that has split from the overarching militant network. A spokesperson for the broader group later condemned the attack as “un-Islamic.” Muhammad Khurasani said that the broader Taliban network in Pakistani disassociates itself from the attack, and vowed that it would bring the group responsible to justice.
For many in Pakistan, however, the attack is painfully reminiscent of a similar Taliban-led siege on an army-run school in Peshawar last December. In that case, attackers similarly scaled the walls surrounding the campus and killed more than 130 students and teachers.
Fearing similar attacks, Pakistani officials called for the walls of educational institutions to be raised and campuses secured against such attacks. Given the ease with which gunmen reportedly scaled the low walls of Bacha Khan University, news agencies are pointing to the lapses in that effort.
The attack in Charsadda follows a spate of deadly attacks claimed by Islamist militants in recent weeks.
Nearly thirty people were killed in an attack on the capital of Burkino Faso on Saturday. Last week, a coffee shop and United Nations in Jakarta, Indonesia were racked by coordinated bomb and gun attacks, just days after a popular tourist destination was attacked by a suicide bomber in Istanbul. The Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad, Afghanistan was also bombed.