CHARSADDA: At least 20 people embraced martyrdom, while 60 others were injured when gunmen attacked a university near Charsadda, where witnesses reported two large explosions as security forces moved in under dense fog to halt the bloodshed.
The number of dead climbed rapidly after armed men stormed the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda.
Police, soldiers and special forces swarmed the university from the ground and the air in a bid to shut down the assault, as television images showed female students running for their lives.
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Regional police chief Saeed Wazir told AFP the operation had ended and security forces were clearing the area, with most of the student victims shot dead at a hostel for male students.
He said the attackers had "taken advantage of the fog", adding that university authorities had estimated visibility at less than 10 metres (30 feet) at the time.
Military spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa said four attackers had been killed, two by snipers.
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- Teacher fighting back -
Students spoke of one hero teacher, Syed Hamid Husain, fighting back against the intruders, shooting his weapon in a bid to protect his charges.
Geology student Zahoor Ahmed said his chemistry lecturer had warned him not to leave the building after the first shots were fired.
"He was holding a pistol in his hand," he said.
"Then I saw a bullet hit him. I saw two militants were firing. I ran inside and then managed to flee by jumping over the back wall."
Another student told television reporters he was in class when he heard gunshots.
"One student jumped out of the classroom through the window. We never saw him get up."
He also described seeing the chemistry professor holding a pistol and firing at the attackers.
"Then we saw him fall down and as the terrorists entered the (registrar) office we ran away."
An emergency services spokesman suggested that other students and teachers had also fired at the attackers, adding that Husain was among them.
"That is why the attackers could not succeed much," Bilal Faizi told AFP.
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- Security 'beefed up' -
"There was no announced threat but we had already beefed up security at the university," university vice chancellor Fazal Raheem Marwat said earlier Wednesday.
India "strongly condemned" the attack, with leader Narendra Modi tweeting his condolences and prayers for the victims.
Wednesday's attack had chilling echoes to the Taliban assault on the Army Public School in Peshawar in December 2014, Pakistan's deadliest ever attack, in which the majority of the victims were children.
After a public outcry, the military intensified an offensive in the tribal areas.Â â€“AFP
Story first published: 20th January 2016