At least 19 people were killed, dozens wounded on Wednesday when Taliban militants attacked a university in Pakistan, while the army hunted for any gunmen still holed up on the campus, officials said. A security official said the death toll could rise to as high as 40 as army commandos cleared out student hostels and classrooms. A spokesman for the rescue workers, Bilal Ahmad Faizi, said 19 bodies had been recovered including students, guards, policemen and at least one teacher, named by media as chemistry professor Syed Hamid Husain. Many of the dead were apparently shot in the head execution-style, TV footage showed. Umar Mansoor, a senior Pakistani Taliban commander and the mastermind of a student massacre in December 2014 at a military-run school in nearby Peshawar, claimed responsibility for the assault and said it involved four of his men. A senior security officer at the scene told Reuters 90 percent of the campus had been secured after a three-hour gunfight with the militants ended, and that 51 people were wounded. Four gunmen were killed. The militants, using the cover of thick, wintry fog, scaled the walls of the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, before entering buildings and opening fire on students and teachers in classrooms and hostels, police said. Students told media they saw several young men wielding AK-47 guns storming the university housing where many students were sleeping. "They came from behind and there was a big commotion," an unnamed male student told a news channel from a hospital bed in Charsadda's District Hospital. "We were told by teachers to leave immediately. Some people hid in bathrooms."
The gunmen attacked as the university prepared to host a poetry recital on Wednesday afternoon to commemorate the death anniversary of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a popular ethnic Pashtun independence activist after whom the university is named.