Taliban attack on Pakistan school: More than 100 children dead
Nirapad News : At least 126 people, more than 100 of them children, have been killed in a Pakistani Taliban attack at an army school in Peshawar, according to provincial officials.
Many children escaped but some were still being held hostage hours after the initial assault, and reporters at the scene said they could still hear firing and explosions.
Military helicopter gunships hovered above the school but were unable to open fire because of the hostages.
Six or more attackers, dressed in army uniform, mounted the assault on the school for the children of army personnel shortly after 11am. Hundreds were in the school at the time.
The attackers, some of them wearing suicide vests, managed to get into the school from the roof of a van parked next to a wall that abuts a graveyard, according to local police. They began firing at random. Another blew himself up as security guards approached.
A student who was in the school at the time of the attack told local media: “The gunmen entered class by class and shot some kids one by one.”
Fighting continued in the school more than four hours after the attack began. Police were struggling to hold back distraught parents trying to break through a cordon to reach the school when there were three loud explosions after 3.30pm.
The Pakistan Taliban, Tehreek-e-Taliban, claimed responsibility, saying it was in revenge for a ferocious army offensive in the tribal areas since June.
“We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females,” said the Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani. “We want them to feel the pain.”
Before leaving the capital of Islamabad for Peshawar, the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, described the massacre as “a national tragedy”.
A police official in Peshawar told the Guardian that 104 children had been killed and 100 injured. “Some of the injured are critical so the death toll could rise,” he said.
Dr Abdul Wahab, head of the emergency department at Lady Reading hospital, which has made an appeal for blood, said 26 bodies had been brought in, most of them children, and about 100 injured, again mostly children, wounded by bullets or shrapnel.
Ali Khan, a police official who works in the district where the school is located, said between eight and 10 terrorists wearing army uniforms were involved in the attack. They jumped into the compound from the roof of a tall van which they had parked near the school.
“One of them blew himself up as soon as the guards came to capture them. The others started moving towards classes and the principal’s room.
“This is an upper middle-class area and most of the children belong to army families. One of our policemen, who was there, claimed around 200 children have been killed but it is not yet confirmed.”
Wounded student Abdullah Jamal told the Associated Press he was getting first-aid instructions and training with a team of Pakistani army medics when the attack began.
Jamal, who was shot in the leg, said no one knew what was going on in the first few seconds. “Then I saw children falling down who were crying and screaming. I also fell down. I learned later that I have got a bullet,” he said, speaking from his hospital bed.
Waqar-Ullah Khattack, one of four invigilators at an exam for 61 students aged 14-16 in the school, told the Guardian he and his colleagues told the students to get down on the floor as soon as they heard firing from an AK-47 and blasts from grenades at around 11am.
Given the number of terror attacks in the city, he said they had been trained for such an eventuality. Less than an hour after hitting the floor, they were led to safety by commandos, walking past the bodies of at least seven children.
“I have no words for this type of terrorism because we are all just too mentally upset,” Khattack said.
Mudassar Abbas, a physics laboratory assistant at the school, said some students were having a celebration party when the attack began.
“I saw six or seven people walking class to class and opening fire on children,” he said.
A student who survived the attack said soldiers came to rescue students during a lull in the firing.
“When we were coming out of the class we saw dead bodies of our friends lying in the corridors. They were bleeding. Some were shot three times, some four times,” the student said.
“The men entered the rooms one by one and started indiscriminate firing at the staff and students.”
In a brief statement, the army said: “Rescue operation by troops under way. Exchange of fire continues. Bulk of student(s) and staff evacuated.”
Tehreek-e-Taliban is allied to the Afghanistan Taliban, sharing similar aims regarding the establishment of sharia law and opposition to the US but, unlike the Afghanistan Taliban, regards the Pakistan government as a target.
The Pakistan army has been carrying out a major offensive in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, home to Tehreek-e-Taliban, since June, after an attack on the international airport in Karachi. Hundreds have been killed in the FATA and tens of thousands displaced.
The Indian prime minister, Nahendra Modi, condemned the attack. – The Guardian