A young man armed with an automatic pistol and clips of ammunition rampaged through a prestigious institute in the Azerbaijani capital Thursday, killing 12 people and wounding others before killing himself as police closed in, the government said.
Little is known about the gunman and even less about the motive for the bloodshed that shook the faculty and students of the Azerbaijan State Oil Academy, a noted school whose graduates have included future presidents and tycoons.
The suspect, Farda Gadyrov, entered the Azerbaijan State Oil Academy in Baku and climbed five floors of the building, shooting everyone he met along the way, according to a joint statement from the Interior Ministry and state prosecutors.
Killed himself as police approached
Gadyrov, a Georgian citizen born in 1980, then shot and killed himself with the gun, a Makarov pistol, when he saw police approaching, the statement said. It said he had three magazines of ammunition.
The statement gave no motive for the attack in Azerbaijan, a country at the crossroads of western Asia and Eastern Europe, with Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Iran at its borders.
TV footage from inside the academy showed victims lying face down in the corridors, apparently dead, with blood seeping onto the floor. Students carried others, apparently injured, out of the building, and weeping women hurried out.
"We were in an exam, we heard gunshots, we went out of the classroom in panic and saw a gunman opening fire on everyone. Three of my friends were shot," Bekir Belek, a Turkish student, told CNN-Turk television from a Baku hospital. "Everywhere was covered in blood, all the corridors."
"We were trying to escape but had to return when my friends were shot; we took them to hospital," Belek said.
"There were bodies at each floor," said Ibrahim Kar, another Turkish student at the hospital.
Took aim at heads of anyone in range
Ilgar Mamedov, whose father, an employee of the academy, said the gunman walked the corridors of the academy taking aim at the head of anyone standing within range, and shooting. If it was apparent a victim was not dead after a first shot, the attacker shot again, Mamedov said.
Azeri President Ilham Aliev offered condolences in a statement later Thursday, and said he would personally oversee the investigation.
The Azerbaijani television station ANS quoted an official in Dashtepe, the Georgian village where Gadyrov grew up, as saying that Gadyrov had left with his parents about a decade ago to live in Russia, then returned briefly about a month ago before moving to Azerbaijan. "It was said that someone had promised him work," said the official, Vidadi Gasanov.
Gasanov described him as an unsociable child who mostly stayed in his house and said "there was something strange in his character."
During his brief return to the village "he went outside only to make purchases at the stores," Gasanov said.
The academy, which has existed under a variety of names since the beginning of the 20th century in this oil-rich former Soviet republic, has long been recognized as a major international center for the training of oil industry specialists.
Among its graduates were Vagit Alekperov, the president of Lukoil, Russia's biggest independent oil producer; Angola's President Jose Eduardo dos Santos; Heydar Aliyev, Azerbaijan's first post-Soviet president; and Lavrenti Beria, the head of the Soviet secret police under Josef Stalin.