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At Least 20 Dead In Pakistan University Attack


In Pakistan today, at least 20 people were killed and many more wounded in an attack on a university in the Northwest part of the country that's near the border with Afghanistan. It was in the town of Charsadda. Many of the victims were teachers and students at Bacha Khan University, and earlier today, I spoke with Jon Boone. He's a Pakistan correspondent for The Guardian newspaper, and he had reported from the scene of this morning's attack.

JON BOONE: I arrived after the siege was over, effectively, and the campus had been secured. But there was still plenty of evidence of the violence that occurred. We looked at the guesthouse where there was large pool of blood that was still sort of wet on the carpet even after several hours. And we're told from witnesses that these gunmen were really moving around, firing and really trying to kill as many people as possible.

SIEGEL: And so far as you know, there were four gunmen and all them killed or captured.

BOONE: That's right. A faction of the Pakistani Taliban, really, as the attack was underway, released a statement taking responsibility and saying that there were four gunmen. And then shortly thereafter, the Pakistan Army said that it had succeeded in killing all four people. They were shot by the security forces, according to a statement by the Pakistani Army.

SIEGEL: Jon, this part of Pakistan, the Northwest, faced a similar - a far more deadly attack in 2014. A group of militants there attacked an Army school in Peshawar, killed more than 130 people, many of them children. What is the point of targeting schools?

BOONE: Well, I think it was, in both that case in 2014 and today's case - it's a soft target or relatively soft target. It's easier than attacking the Pakistani military or the state head on. And also, it got an extraordinary reaction. The 2014 Army public school attack really changed the political weather in Pakistan, and it prompted the army and government to declared that it would get serious about domestic terrorism and really try and launch its own war on terror, which has had some success.

So I think today's attack is really a way of saying that we're still here; we can still mount these sorts of operations even though supposedly the government had ordered that all educational institutions in the country should harden their defenses, build walls and employ extra guards. And it's extraordinary, really, that these four men today were able to enter through a back wall with really nothing to stop them.

SIEGEL: Is it clear that the same Taliban group that was responsible for the Peshawar attack in 2014 was responsible for this attack, or is it unclear who actually was behind it?

BOONE: The Pakistani Taliban was always an alliance of different militant groups that came together in 2007. And it's fallen apart, really, over the last 18 months, and I think that was illustrated today by the fact that you had one commander who was associated with the attack on the school in Peshawar claiming responsibility for this. Yet, at the same time, you had the official spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban denying any involvement and saying it was an un-Islamic attack. And I think that really just tells us that the Pakistani Taliban, as such, does not really exist. There are multiple Pakistani Talibans.

SIEGEL: That's Jon Boone of The Guardian, reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan, where an attack on a University in the Northwestern part of the country killed at least 20 people. Jon, thank you very much.

BOONE: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.