Taliban members in Pakistan have claimed responsibility for the deadly attack on a university in the northern region.
Pakistan Taliban spokesman Umar Mansoor announced that the group planned the attack as retribution for “military operations against the group.” Mansoor also organized the attack at the Peshawar school.
Another spokesman, Mohammad Khurrassani, denied his group attacked the university. In fact, he said the group “strongly condemn[s] the attack” since it “is not according to Shariah.”
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“We’ve seen consistent operations by the Taliban up in this area,” explained CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd, who believed the Taliban executed the attack. “I see this as simply as retaliatory, that is the Taliban saying, ‘If you’re going to bring Pakistani special forces and the army up into our turf, you’re going pay a heavy price.'”
Four gunmen scaled the walls at 9:30 a.m. local time (10:30 p.m. Eastern).
“There was heavy fog in the area when armed men entered … and started firing at the security guards, students and teachers,” stated regional police chief Saeed Wazir.
Other witnesses said the gunmen screamed, “Allahu Akbar” while they fired upon innocent people. NBC journalists reported “parts of the two-story building were completely destroyed, with blood on the floor and bullet holes on the walls.”
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“They shot [and] injured three security guards and one of them later went to block number one, another climbed to upper floor of the building and the third one went towards administration block,” said student Bakhtiar Khan.
The four men wore suicide vests, “but only one detonated.”
“We could hear their movements but couldn’t see them because of the dense fog,” recounted English professor Mohammed Shabir.
He hid in the bathroom for two hours to survive. The gunmen shot his roommate in the head and face.
“I’m happy I’m alive but my roommate, a brilliant professor, died too young,” he added.
Senior government official Fakhr-i-Alam said the Taliban militants killed “students, a senior faculty member and four guards” and injured 19 others. The four attackers also died.
“We are determined and resolved in our commitment to wipe out the menace of terrorism from our homeland,” declared Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. “The countless sacrifices made by our countrymen will not go in vain, inshallah.”
School official Salma Khan insisted the school’s “resolve of educating our children cannot be shaken by such cowardly acts.”
“I will not forget this terrible scene for rest of my life,” cried Sajjad Ahmed, professor of sociology and gender studies. “Students were falling like someone was cutting down newly blossomed flowers.”