Pakistan university assault: Suspected Taliban gunmen kill 20 people and injure 51 after storming Bacha Khan campus

Police say four of the gunmen are dead

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The Independent Online

At least 20 people have been killed and 51 wounded after a group of suspected Taliban gunmen attacked a university in Pakistan.

The army and police have now cleared the Bacha Khan University campus in Charsadda, in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Three students, at least one professor, and members of the police force all lost their lives in the violent attack. Many of those who died were shot in the head, according to reports.

Militants stormed the university and opened fire on Wednesday morning. Security forces then entered the campus to try to bring the situation under control.

A heavy gun battle ensued for several hours and four gunmen were killed by security officials.

Although the death toll is yet to be confirmed, with reports putting it at 20 or 21, a security official fears it could climb to 40.

Responsibility for the attack was claimed by Umar Mansoor, a senior Pakistani Taliban commander who masterminded the Peshawar school attack in December 2014. He said four of his men were involved.

However, Mohammad Khurasani, the main spokesman for the Pakistan Taliban said the attack was "un-Islamic" and denied that the group was responsible, the BBC reported.

Following the attack, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said: "We are determined and resolved in our community to wipe out the menace of terrorism from our homeland."

Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, said: "Strongly condemn the terror attack at Bacha Khan University in Pakistan. Condolences to families of the deceased. Prayers with the injured."

Police said the militants managed to enter the campus buildings on Wednesday morning after scaling the walls of the university, which is situated 35km away from Peshawar. Two explosions were heard inside.

Soldiers were seen entering the university as ambulances parked outside the main gate.

TV footage shows heavily armed soldiers entering the campus

Earlier, police chief Saeed Wazir said 70 per cent of the students had been rescued.

“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."

Shabir Khan, a lecturer, was about to leave the hostel for the English department when the attack began.

“Most of the students and staff were in classes when the firing began.”

Security personnel take up positions outside the university

“I have no idea about what’s going on but I heard one security official talking on the phone to someone and said many people had been killed and injured,” said Mr Khan.

The Bacha Khan University is named after the founder of a liberal, anti-Taliban political party. The party has in the past been targeted by the Pakistani Taliban for its anti-militant policies. 

Following the massacre of more than 150 people at a school in Peshawar in December 2014, carried out by gunmen believed to be linked to the Taliban, hundreds of suspected militants in Pakistan have been killed and arrested in a major crackdown.

Additional reporting by agencies