Nine people have been killed and dozens injured after Taliban militants wearing burqas stormed a college in Peshawar as Pakistan marked the birthday of the prophet Muhammad, officials said.
Police said at least three militants opened fire at security guards near the gates of the Agriculture Training Institute, injuring one person before making their way inside and targeting student accommodation.
Authorities said the gunmen had been killed and security forces had cleared the area after searching for remaining militants.
Salahuddin Khan Mehsud, the police chief of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said three attackers clad in women’s burqas reached the gate in a rickshaw and opened fire to clear their way to the building.
“All of them were wearing suicide vests but they were killed before they could blow themselves up,” said Salahuddin Khan Mehsud, the police chief of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
He said six students, a security guard and two civilians were killed in the attack.
“All three terrorists are dead while we are trying to identify a fourth body,” he added, following earlier reports there had been other gunmen.
A spokeswomen for two hospitals in the city said they had received nine bodies and were treating 38 injured people, including several in a 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 said.
Wali and another student rushed to his aid, hiding 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 attack took place is a hub for educational institutions in the city, including the University of Peshawar.
An interior ministry official told AFP that cellular networks had been suspended in various cities across the country for security reasons.