PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Burqa-clad suicide bombers killed nine people as they stormed a government complex in Pakistan during a national holiday Friday. At least 37 others were injured in the attack, according to police.
The attackers reached the gates of an institute for agricultural training and research in Peshawar by rickshaw before opening fire and breaking into buildings, according to police chief Sajjad Khan.
They exchanged fire with police and troops before targeting a dormitory for students and teachers at the site.
"Three suicide bombers armed with AK-47 assault rifles and hand grenades entered the hostel and opened fire on the students before triggering their explosives-filled jackets," the police chief said.
He added that the three were killed during the attack, which was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban.
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A loud explosion was heard at the complex some 20 miles from the border with Afghanistan. TV footage later showed building walls riddled with bullets holes and blood stains, and broken glass scattered on the floor.
A senior police official earlier put the number of attackers at four. No reason was given for the different figures although such discrepancies are common in the immediate aftermath of complex attacks.
The attack occurred on Eid Miladun Nabi, a major Muslim holiday celebrating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad.
"I was sleeping in my room with my other colleagues," said student Zulfiqar Ahmad. "Then heavy firing awakened us and when I came out of the room I saw three armed men firing on people."
Tajamul Hussain said he had just returned to his room after his morning prayers when heard firing in the dormitory.
"I immediately left the room when heard firing and saw two armed men firing on the ground floor," the 18-year-old said. Hussain then escaped out the back of the building.
Pervez Khattak, chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, expressed grief over the 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 Taliban took responsibility for the onslaught, saying it had targeted a dormitory housing Pakistan security services officials.
Peshawar has been the scene of some of the worst violence during the years of an insurgency by the Pakistani Taliban. More than 140 students and teachers were killed when Taliban gunmen wearing suicide vests attacked the Army Public School in Peshawar in 2014.
Mushtaq Yusufzai reported from Peshawar. Wajahat S. Khan reported from Lahore. Alex Johnson reported from Los Angeles. F. Brinley Bruton reported from London.
Mushtaq Yusufzai is a journalist based in Peshawar, Pakistan.
Wajahat S. Khan, Alex Johnson, F. Brinley Bruton and Associated Press contributed.