In a possible reprisal attack for the military advance into South Waziristan, suicide bombers chose the softly guarded campus of a university in the capital to strike their latest blow on Tuesday, killing five students and wounding 29.
Two suicide bombers detonated themselves in different parts of the Islamabad Islamic University campus within minutes of each other on Tuesday afternoon when an estimated 2,000 students were on the campus.
It was the first attack by militants on an educational institute outside Swat and the first since the military campaign against the Taliban in South Waziristan began last Saturday.
As many as 17,000 students are enrolled at the university. The campus is spread over a 2.5-sq.km. area in the H-10 sector on the outskirts of the capital, and security appeared to have been easygoing as at any university.
Men and women students are segregated on the campus and are also taught separately. One suicide bomber targeted the women’s cafeteria blowing himself up at its entrance after he was prevented from going in by a guard.
Another suicide bomber entered the men’s law faculty and blew himself up on the second floor of the building. Investigators suspect the bomber might have wished to target the chairman of the faculty, as he blew himself up outside his office.
The five people who died in the two attacks were students aged between 19 and 25, according to hospital officials. Among them was a woman student. Many of the injured were also women.
The bombings caused extensive damage, shattering windows, blowing out chunks of concrete from the university building’s walls, and leaving the ceiling in the faculty pockmarked by explosive.
On a visit to the university, Interior Minister Rehman Malik confirmed that both attacks were suicide bombings. He was booed by angry slogan-shouting students, and left after a hurried inspection of the two sites.
Several schools in the capital and in Rawalpindi, especially those run by the Army and other defence establishments, had shut down on Monday fearing terrorist attacks .
Mr. Malik said a government order to shut down all educational institutes may be considered. Sindh province has already taken the decision to close down schools and colleges.
Meanwhile, the military said it was making progress into Taliban strongholds in South Waziristan. The Inter-Services Public Relations, the military’s publicity wing, said 12 Taliban militants had been killed in the operation since Monday, while four soldiers were also killed and three wounded.