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‘Charsadda attackers didn’t wear suicide jackets’

Army men take part in a search operation at Bacha Khan University. ─ AFP/File

Army men take part in a search operation at Bacha Khan University. ─ AFP/File

PESHAWAR: The militant attack on the Bacha Khan University Charsadda appears to be the first of its kind in the province as the attackers didn’t wear suicide vests in sharp contrast to the past.

Security officials say they’re curious to know why the militants didn’t use suicide jackets while storming the university.

A senior security official told Dawn that none of the university attackers had worn suicide vests nor did they have other paraphernalia like edibles and water bottles.

“They (attackers) didn’t carry even candies or biscuits on their bodies,” he said.

Security officials insist militants wanted to flee after attack but plan foiled by guards, locals

The official said ostensibly, the attackers didn’t intended to lay long siege or take students or staff members hostage.

He said unlike terrorist incidents of the past, the BKU attackers were not heavily armed either.

“They (attackers) carried hand grenades and AK-47 rifles only,” he said.

The official said the hand grenades the attackers carried didn’t total more than eight.

“The militants apparently detonated a grenade at the university’s parking lot, where its buses were parked,” he said, adding that grenade splinters were found on the attack site.

The official said four attackers carried two extra magazines and that the use of lighter arms was rare.

“A rapid fire exhausts half of the magazine in one burst. They (militants) would have been without ammunition in just five minutes with two spare chargers,” he said.

Another official said the absence of suicide jackets and use of lighter weapons pointed to an assumption that the militants wanted to flee the scene after attacking the varsity but the plan was possibly thwarted by the resistance showed by the university’s guards and local residents.

He said the response of Palosa villagers to attackers was something previously not seen anywhere.

“All villagers came to defend the university with whatever they got their hands on,” he said.

The official said coming out in large numbers, the villagers had surrounded the campus, which might have foiled the terrorists’ plan to escape.

He said all in the village knew each other and the venturing back into village was like walking to death for attackers, so it might have prompted them to stay back and die after a firefight.

The official said it was a positive sign that villagers came to the rescue of the students.

“Had this been in a city, the attackers might have been able to flee,” he said.

The official said the attackers were not properly trained and were not able to properly execute their mission and that was the apparent reason of smaller death toll.

He said the attackers managed to enter the campus at around 8:45am and could have inflicted greater damage during the first 30 minutes of their entry to the premises.

The official usually, a killing spree took not more than five to 10 minutes.

“They (militants) were confused and were not fully trained. They had not done careful reconnaissance of the target,” he insisted.

The official said apparently, the attackers wanted to give a message that they still had the ability to hit a target.

“There were rumours of attack on some educational institution. With this attack, they (militants) have managed to reinforce the view that they can still strike targets,” he said.

The official said attackers had two phone numbers written on a piece of paper with them in addition to the mobile phones they carried. He however did not disclose whether the numbers were local or foreign.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2016