A Pakistan university was attacked Wednesday by a group of Taliban gunmen who killed at least 20 people, The Associated Press reported
The armed militants reportedly used a thick morning fog to slip into Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, northwestern Pakistan around 9:30 a.m. local time and fire on students and teachers in classrooms and housing, according to The Guardian, which reported the death toll at 30.
Pakistan security forces reportedly engaged in a gun battle with four suspects over several hours before the militants were killed, The Guardian said.
The number of reported casualties ranged from at least 21, according to Agence France-Presse
, to perhaps as high as 40, one security official told Reuters
According to the wire agency, students informed local Pakistan media outlets that they saw the suspects with AK-47s storming university housing where many students were sleeping.
"They came from behind and there was a big commotion," an unidentified student said to a Pakistan news channel from Charsadda's District Hospital. "We were told by teachers to leave immediately. Some people hid in bathrooms."
"Most of the students and staff were in classes when the firing began," Shabir Khan, a lecturer in the university's English department, said, according to The Guardian.
Taliban leader Khalifa Umar Mansoor reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call to the AP.
But Mohammad Khurasani, a spokesman for the Taliban's Pakistan faction, denounced those who carried out the attack and called it "un-Islamic," the wire agency said.
Pakistan forces believe Mansoor also orchestrated the attack on a military-operated school in 2014 near Peshawar that killed more than 150 people, according to AFP.
"We are determined and resolved in our commitment to wipe out the menace of terrorism from our homeland," Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in a statement.
Reuters reported that the Pakistani Taliban, which is loosely allied with the Afghan Taliban, has been fighting to overthrow the government there and to install its own strict interpretation of Islamic law.
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