Staff rush Pakistani security personnel injured to hospital during a crackdown operation against militants who stormed the agriculture institute in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (AP)
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Dec 1: Islamist militants stormed a provincial government complex for agriculture research in northwest Pakistan on Friday, killing 12 people including students and wounding 35 others, police and rescue officials said.
Police and military troops killed three attackers during a firefight and while clearing the complex in Peshawar, they said.
The main Taliban militant group, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, claimed responsibility.
Police chief Salahuddin Mahsud of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province said attackers opened fire on the main gate of a provincial Agricultural Department complex, initially wounding two guards and two students.
Mahsud said three attackers clad in women's burqas then reached the gate in a rickshaw and opened fire to clear their way to the building. The ensuing firefight left 12 dead and dozens more injured.
Mahsud told reporters after the complex was cleared that among the dead, six were students and one was a guard. Six others were still being identified.
Mahsud said before the attackers could reach other hostels, security forces were able to evacuate residents in armor vehicles.
"Police and military troops engaged in a quick and well-coordinated firefight and evacuation efforts saved scores of lives, otherwise the death toll could have been much higher," he said.
TV footage showed bullets holes in building walls, blood stains and broken glass scattered on the floor.
A comparatively small number of students and others were present in the normally crowded complex at the time of the attack because Friday is a holiday, the day when Muslims celebrate the birthday of the prophet Muhammad.
Military spokesman Maj. Gen Asif Ghafoor said the fact that Tehrik-e-Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack proved it was planned in Afghanistan where the group is based. He said the attackers were in constant contact with their handlers in the neighboring country.
Ghafoor added that Afghanistan's director general of military operations was currently in Pakistan and the issue would be taken up with him.
The attack came over a week after a suicide bomber killed top police official Mohammad Ashraf Noor and his guard in the provincial capital.
Pervez Khattak, chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, expressed grief over the nine lives lost.
"These terrorists have no religion as they attacked on a day which is very sacred and the nation was celebrating it," he said.
The police chief said police and military troops quickly cordoned the building, closed in and killed the gunmen who had holed up in a building in the complex. The complex includes offices, a teaching institute and a hostel.
Among the wounded were two soldiers, seven policemen, a reporter and a private guard in addition to the students. Some were in critical condition, authorities said.
Mahsud said dozens of students and others were rescued during the operation. He said after eliminating the attackers, security troops were searching and clearing the buildings.
Security forces in the clearance operation seized an explosive vest, hand grenades and several assault rifles that the attackers had been carrying.