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As classes began at a high school in suburban Pittsburgh on Wednesday morning, a 16-year-old student walked through the hallway stabbing and slashing students with two large knives, the authorities said.

By the time the student was tackled by an assistant principal, he had stabbed 20 students and a security guard and sent students running from the school, officials said. At least four of the students had serious wounds to the abdomen and torso but were expected to survive.

The suspect, Alex Hribal, was treated for cuts to his hand at a hospital before he was taken into custody. He was charged Wednesday with four counts of attempted homicide, 21 counts of aggravated assault and one count of possessing a prohibited weapon on school property, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The attack at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pa., a suburb about 20 miles east of Pittsburgh, began shortly after 7 a.m., officials said. The teenager stabbed students with two knives that were 8 to 10 inches long, the police said.

The police said they were investigating whether the student might have been bullied, but they said they did not have concrete evidence of it.

A sophomore, Cameron Lazor, said she saw the 16-year-old student stab four students, including one teenager who was slashed in the arm as he tried to protect two classmates. The teenager had a “serious look” in his eye as he passed her in the hallway, she said.

“It seemed like he was targeting some people,” she said. “But anyone who got in his way, he was hurting them too.”

A friend took her hand, and they went running out of the school. In a parking lot outside, Lazor said, she saw many bloody students with injuries to the abdomen and arms.

On Wednesday evening, at least four victims remained in critical condition, hospital officials said. One of the most seriously injured was a 17-year-old male student who was stabbed in the torso, just barely missing his heart, doctors at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center said at a news conference. Doctors said they were hopeful that the student, who was on life support, would survive.

At a news conference Wednesday evening, Chief Thomas Seefeld of the Murrysville Police Department said the attack had lasted about five minutes. The student was confronted by a school security guard, but the guard was unable to subdue him and was stabbed in the abdomen.