CHARSADDA, Pakistan—Pakistan observed a day of national mourning Thursday for the 21 people killed when heavily-armed gunmen stormed a university in the troubled northwest, exposing the failings in a national crackdown on extremism.
Armed police, some perched on the roofs of buildings, were still deployed Thursday morning at the Bacha Khan university campus in Charsadda, where students were targeted with grenades and automatic weapons, an AFP reporter said.
Security forces remained on alert, with police foiling a bomb attack at a crowded bus station in nearby Peshawar Thursday morning
Wednesday’s assault, claimed by a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, bore a chilling resemblance to a December 2014 massacre at a school in nearby Peshawar that triggered a crackdown on militants that had been credited with a palpable improvement in security.
The majority of the 21 dead were laid to rest shortly after the attack according to Muslim tradition, while around 1,000 people in a nearby village attended the funeral on Thursday of a university caretaker killed.
One of the wounded students, a geology major, died overnight and his funeral was also to be held later Thursday.
Seven other survivors were in stable condition and being treated in local hospitals, officials said.
Defiant authorities kept schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province open Thursday.
“Militants want them shut down,” provincial education minister Arif Khan told AFP. “We wanted to send the message that education will continue.”
Only Bacha Khan university and its sister university Abdul Wali Khan in the town of Mardan were closed, he said.
Flags will fly at half-mast on all government buildings inside and outside the country, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office said, while a prayer ceremony will be held in the capital Islamabad.
More than 200 sportsmen and women gathered along with officials from the Pakistan Sport Board at a complex in the capital earlier Thursday to offer prayers for the victims.
“We are determined that the young generation of Pakistan will not bow down to the terrorists,” PSB director Akhtar Nawaz said.
Sharif has vowed a “ruthless” response to the massacre and ordered security forces to hunt those behind Wednesday’s attack, which was claimed by a Pakistani Taliban faction but branded “un-Islamic” by the umbrella group’s leadership.