On December 1, 2017, a group of armed militants attacked the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and an adjoining residence hall in Peshawar, Pakistan, killing twelve people.
At approximately 8:30 am, three men wearing burqas and suicide vests drove an auto rickshaw onto the ATI campus in the early hours of the morning, immediately firing on security personnel at the campus gates, killing one guard and injuring another. The attackers then made their way to a dormitory, where from outside they opened fire on students. According to state officials, police forces arrived on the scene within minutes of the attack and killed the attackers after a gunfight that lasted several hours. All told, at least twelve people—six of them students—were killed in the attack, while another 37 people were injured. The attack came on Eid Milad un-Nabi, a holiday celebrating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad; fewer students were reportedly on campus that day due to the holiday weekend.
In the hours that followed, officials from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a national Taliban militant group, publicly claimed responsibility for the attack (although TTP officials later claimed that the attackers were ordered to target a secret intelligence office allegedly located on the ATI campus, instead of students; state officials have refuted TTP’s claim of an intelligence office on site).
Scholars at Risk condemns this extreme, targeted, violent attack on the higher education space, and sends condolences to the victims, their families, and the Agricultural Training Institute community. In addition to the terrible loss of life and injuries, such attacks target the core values of higher education, including academic freedom, the free exchange of ideas, institutional autonomy, and social responsibility. State authorities have a responsibility to safeguard these values by taking all reasonable steps to ensure the security of higher education communities and their members, including a responsibility to deter future attacks by investigating incidents and making every effort to hold perpetrators accountable, consistent with internationally recognized standards. Members of society similarly have a responsibility to help safeguard the higher education space, especially following incidents of such gross violence, by pressing demands to State authorities for greater protection and accountability, and by contributing to efforts to understand and reinforce principles of autonomy and academic freedom.