PESHAWAR - A brave chemistry teacher who tried to protect his students by opening fire on Taliban militants during a deadly attack at Bacha Khan University has been hailed as a “martyr” and a “gentleman”.

Assistant Professor Dr Syed Hamid Hussain, 34, ordered his students to stay inside as gunmen stormed the institution yesterday morning. Using his licensed pistol against armed militants, he fought back the attackers, giving the young people time to flee before he was cut down in a hail of bullets.

“We saw three terrorists shouting, ‘Allah is great!’ and rushing towards the stairs of our department,” a student told reporters. “One student jumped out of the classroom through the window. We never saw him get up.”

He described seeing Husain holding a pistol and firing at the attackers. “Then we saw him fall down and as the terrorists entered the (registrar) office we ran away.”

Geology student Zahoor Ahmed said Dr Hamid Hussain had warned him not to leave the building after the first shots were fired. “He was holding a pistol in his hand,” he said. “Then I saw a bullet hit him. I saw two militants were firing. I ran inside and then managed to flee by jumping over the back wall.”

“They fired directly at” the professor, sociology student Muhammad Daud said, describing Hamid as “a real gentleman and a respectable teacher”.

Dr Hamid, who had celebrated third birth anniversary of his son Hashir Hussian a few days back, was laid to rest at his ancestral graveyard in Swabi district. Besides Hashir, he left behind a widow and a one year old daughter.

Dr Syed Hamid Hussian had received his PhD (in organic chemistry) from Brussels University of UK and was associated with Bacha Khan University as assistant professor for the last three years. In his last post on the Facebook, which he had shared on January 17, he had asked students to apply for World Bank fellowship programme.

Tributes were paid to the slain academic on social media. “Martyr of #education: Prof Hamid who was killed by terrorists in #BachaKhanUniversity#Pakistan,” tweeted journalist and academic Raza Ahmad Rumi.

Another message on twitter read: “Very #sad news Prof Dr Syed Hamid from Chemistry dept embraced shahadat (martyrdom) in an attack in #BachaKhanUniversity#Charsadda.” One user said Pakistan had “lost an asset”, while another called him a “martyr of education”.

The death of Dr Hamid was confirmed earlier in a statement published on the university’s Facebook page. It read: “Over 20 feared martyred this morning as 4 to 10 terrorists attacked our [university] taking advantage of heavy fog by entering through the back wall near Boys Hostel and started firing with heavy weapons indiscriminately.”

It said that Dr Hamid was among the confirmed deaths, as well as two females, two guards and a policeman. President Mamnoon Hussain also confirmed the lecturer had died, and expressed his grief and condolences to the man’s family.