Pakistan mourns, buries victims from university attack

CHARSADDA, Pakistan -- Pakistanis buried their dead and observed a day of nationwide mourning Thursday following the brazen attack by Islamic militants who stormed a northwestern university the previous day, gunning down students and teachers and spreading terror before the four gunmen were slain by the military.

See Full Article

Meanwhile, the death toll from the assault at Bacha Khan university in the town of Charsadda rose to 21, after another student died in hospital, said police official Tariq Khan.

Most of the victims were students and their families were inconsolable.

Two teachers were among the dead, including a chemistry professor who was praised as a hero for shooting back at the attackers and allowing some students to escape.

"My son was grown up, but still he was an innocent kid for me," said Gula Bibi, the mother of the second slain teacher, Iftikhar Ahmad, who was also the university librarian.

"My heart is breaking apart, I don't know what to do," she said.

The attack, which also wounded 22 students, raised grim echoes of the 2014 school massacre in the nearby city of Peshawar that left 150 dead, 144 of them children. It yet again raised questions about whether security forces are able to protect the country's educational institutions from extremists.

Flags on official buildings and the parliament were flying at half-staff and police stepped up security at schools and educational centres across the country.

In the Swiss resort of Davos, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said Thursday that his country is increasingly determined to fight extremism in the wake of the Charsadda attack.

"Our resolve to fight against these elements is getting stronger every day," he said, speaking at a debate moderated by The Associated Press at the World Economic Forum.

Sharif said the attack was the result of "blowback" after Pakistani authorities' efforts to dismantle extremists' infrastructure and hideouts and insisted the extremists' "ability to strike back has been considerably destroyed" and "the terrorists are on the run."

The army has been pounding militant hideouts in the tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan since June 2014, disrupting operations for the Pakistani Taliban militants. Because of that campaign, analysts say the extremists have turned to attacking soft targets such as schools.

A breakaway Taliban faction claimed responsibility for Wednesday's assault -- the same faction, headed by Khalifa Umar Mansoor, which had claimed the Peshawar school assault.

The university in Charsadda is named after one of Pakistan's greatest secular leaders who often espoused communist philosophy, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, also known as Bacha Khan. The attack coincided with the 28th anniversary of Bacha Khan's death on Jan. 20, 1988.

Most of the victims were buried quickly, according to Muslim tradition, with funerals overnight and early Thursday, said Khan, the police official.

Mohammad Khurasani. A spokesman for the main Taliban group in Pakistan disowned those behind the university attack, terming it "un-Islamic" and insisted the Pakistani Taliban were not behind it.

Wednesday's violence yet again exposed the vulnerability of schools in Pakistan, where extremists have sought to prevent Western-style education, especially for girls.

Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize after the teenager was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012 outside her school in the Swat Valley because of her vocal support for gender equality and education for girls. She said she was "heartbroken" by the latest attack.

There was tight security all Pakistani schools and educational institutions Thursday, with schoolbags scanned and teachers and students checked before being allowed in.

The Bacha Khan university remained closed and its vice chancellor Fazal-ur-Rahim Marwat said classes would resume Monday.

"We need time to clean the campus, make more security arrangement and boost the morale of the students and teachers," he said.

Cricket legend-turned-politician Imran Khan, who heads the party that rules the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where Charsadda is located, said it was impossible to provide police guards at every school or educational centre.

There're around 64,000 educational institutions in the province alone, he said, and defended measures already taken. The Bacha Khan university had 54 guards, he added -- and still the attack happened.

"There were intelligence reports of a threat to schools some days ago," he said. "We sent kids home that day. We took all possible measures."

Also Thursday, Pakistani army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif called Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and the U.S. commander of NATO's support mission in Afghanistan, Gen. John Campbell, to seek co-operation in "locating and targeting those responsible for this heinous act and bring them to justice."

The Pakistani army has claimed the Charsadda attackers were managed by handlers across the border in Afghanistan. Militants in both countries regularly flee to safe havens across the inaccessible border.

Associated Press Writers Asif Shahzad in Islamabad and Angela Charlton in Davos, Switzerland, contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Searchers looking for overdue hiker in Whiteshell area of eastern Manitoba

    Canada News CTV News
    LAC DU BONNET, Man. -- Search and rescue crews are looking for an overdue hiker in the Whiteshell area in eastern Manitoba. A 33-year-old Winnipeg woman planned to hike the Mantario Trail to Mantario Lake, camp overnight and return by Thursday afternoon. Source
  • Philippines President Duterte phones Trump

    World News CTV News
    MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte telephoned U.S. President-elect Donald Trump late Friday and had a brief but "very engaging, animated conversation" in which both leaders invited each other to visit his country. In a video released by Duterte's close aide, Bong Go, the Philippine leader is seen smiling while talking to Trump and saying: "We will maintain . Source
  • British couple, married 50 years, spend finals hours together holding hands

    World News Toronto Sun
    A British couple married for more than 50 years have died holding each other’s hands, according to their family. Audrey Fleetwood, 77, was in palliative care suffering from dementia said the Sun U.K., and had been in hospital for 23 weeks when her husband Dennis Fleetwood, 85, was admitted as well. Source
  • 2 trapped after building collapses in South Dakota city

    World News CTV News
    SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Rescue workers picked through the rubble of a collapsed building in a South Dakota city Friday in search of two people who were thought to be trapped in the debris. Crews were concerned about rubble shifting as they carefully worked to free the two. Source
  • Ban on diesel planned in 4 of world's biggest cities

    World News CBC News
    Four of the world's largest and most polluted cities have decided to ban diesel cars and trucks from their streets by 2025. The mayors of Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens announced the commitment in Mexico City on Friday at the C40 Mayors' Summit, a meeting of city leaders. Source
  • Not rocket science why you're fat: Stephen Hawking

    World News Toronto Sun
    Brilliant scientist Stephen Hawking says it is easy to figure out why people around the world are fat. “We eat too much and move too little,” Hawking said in a public-service announcement for non-profit Swedish health organization GEN-PEP. Source
  • Raul Castro: Ruthless and brutal like his late brother Fidel

    World News Toronto Sun
    Raul Castro was hitting the booze hard. Mostly vodka. His favourite. He had just taken part in the assassination of his longtime friend and comrade, General Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez. The general -- with Raul and his brother, Cuban strongman Fidel Castro -- had been an integral part of the cabal that ran the country since the early 1960s. Source
  • 950-lb. manatee rescued from Fla. storm drain

    World News Toronto Sun
    According to News4 Jacksonville, the 9.5-foot female manatee probably got into the drain after feeding in the area and getting a little too ambitious, going out of bounds and getting stuck in the city’s storm system. The Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission worked together for seven hours to cut pipes away so that the manatee could be pulled from the drain unharmed, reports said. Source
  • Canadian couple in their 70s among the dead in Tennessee wildfire [Video]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    A Canadian couple is among the victims of a wildfire that ravaged the Smoky Mountains resort city of Gatlinburg, Tenn. John Tegler and Marilyn Tegler, both in their 70s, are among 13 people who have died as a result of the fires that broke out earlier this week. Source
  • Cyber-bullied teen committed suicide in front of her family: Reports

    World News Toronto Sun
    A Texas teen who was cyber-bullied for more than a year killed herself in front of her family because she couldn’t take the abuse anymore, according to reports. “I love you so much, please remember that, and I’m sorry for everything,” read Brandy Vela’s text to her family moments before she killed herself. Source