Nine people were killed and dozens injured yesterday when burqa-clad Taliban militants stormed a training institute in the northwestern city of Peshawar as Pakistan marked the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh), officials said, AFP reports.
Police said at least three militants opened fire at security near the gates of the Agriculture Training Institute, killing one guard and injuring another before making their way inside and targeting the student accommodation.
Authorities said the gunmen had been killed and security forces had cleared the area after searching for remaining militants.
Blood smeared the corridor of the dormitory where the gunmen fired at cornered students and lobbed hand grenades, with several victims said to be teenagers, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.
“Some students got out to watch the gun-battle and they were shot by the militants,” student Zahid Ullah, 16, told AFP.
Police said six students, a security guard and two civilians were killed in the attack by the militants. “All of them were wearing suicide vests but they were killed before they could blow themselves up,” said Salahuddin Khan Mehsud, police chief of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
“All three terrorists are dead while we are trying to identify a fourth body,” he added, following earlier reports there had been an additional gunmen.
Spokeswomen from two hospitals in the city said they had received a total of nine bodies and were treating some 38 injured, including several in critical condition.
During the onslaught on the training centre, a spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Muhammad Khurasani, claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to AFP.
“Our mujahids have attacked the building because it was used as office for ISI, God willing our fighters will fight till the last drop of blood,” he said, referring to Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence agency.
Noor Wali, a 19-year-old student at the institute, described a terrifying ordeal that began when he was woken by gunshots.
“I rushed to the door and saw a fountain of blood pumping out of the shoulder of my roommate who was standing outside the room,” he told AFP.
He and another student rushed to his aid, and hid from the gunmen for almost an hour before they were rescued by security forces.
“The other student was pressing the wound with his hands to stop the blood and I had to put my hand on his mouth so that he cannot scream,” he said.
“We took shelter inside the bedroom and were begging the injured student not to make any sound as the terrorists might hear it and kill us.”
The area where the incident occurred is a hub for educational institutions in the city including the University of Peshawar.
The attack bore striking similarities to a 2014 Taliban massacre at the army-run school in Peshawar that killed 151 people, mostly schoolchildren.
Security in the area has improved drastically following the school attack after multiple military operations targeting militants in the nearby tribal belt largely succeeded in breaking insurgent strongholds and pushing fighters across the border.
However sporadic attacks continue to target security installations and civilians in the area.
The incident comes amid tight security across Pakistan as it celebrates the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh).
An interior ministry official told AFP that cellular networks had been suspended in various cities across the country for security reasons.
The country is tense after weeks-long anti-blasphemy protests in Islamabad that saw seven killed and hundreds wounded in clashes with police.