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Pakistan mourns Taliban campus attack victims

Pakistani authorities have declared a day of mourning after a gun attack killed 21 people on Wednesday. Schools, however, were kept open in what government officials said was an act of defiance.

The national flag was at half-mast nationwide after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared a national day of mourning for Thursday, while several hundred people attended funeral prayers for the students and staff killed in Wednesday's attack at Bacha Khan University.

Local police said that about 10 suspects with alleged links to the attackers had been arrested, DPA reported.

Police also said they had apprehended a man in the process of planting a bomb, which was defused, at a crowded bus station in Peshawar on Thursday.

Schools open in defiance

Most educational institutions in northwestern Pakistan were open on Thursday, but Bacha Khan University and its sister university, Abdul Wali Khan, in the town of Mardan were closed.

"Militants want them [schools] shut down," provincial education minister Arif Khan told the AFP news agency. "We wanted to send the message that education will continue."

"Parents sent their kids to schools in defiance," Zafar Abassi, chief of Charsadda district administration, told German press agency DPA. He added that attendance had so far been good.

Taliban militants had killed 21 people at the local university in Charsadda on Wednesday. Gunmen reportedly stormed the Bacha Khan University campus, initially killing 20 people. One student died in hospital in the city of Peshawar, 50 kilometers from Charsadda, on Thursday. Seven other survivors were in stable condition and being treated in local hospitals, officials said.

The four gunmen were shot dead after exchanging gunfire for several hours with security forces.

The attack came just over a year after the Taliban attacked an army-run school in Peshawar in December 2014, killing 136 children in Pakistan's worst terrorist attack. Security improved in 2015, with the lowest number of deaths from militant violence since the Pakistani Taliban was set up in 2007.

Amnesty International has said the Bacha Khan attack could be branded a war crime.

jh/sms (dpa, AFP)

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