Peshawar: Pakistan began three days of mourning on Wednesday for the 132 children and nine school staff massacred by the Tehreek-I-Taliban in the country’s deadliest ever terror attack, as the world watched in horror, and united in revulsion.
Pakistani Taliban had shot Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai in 2012 while on a school bus, as punishment for supporting education for women in Pakistan.
She has since become a worldwide symbol for the fight against oppression on women and the right to education.
Tuesday’s attack on a school by the Pakistani Taliban was being seen as a means of sending a strong message to Malala’s supporters, who have since grown in number after she was conferred the Nobel Peace Prize.
It is also suspected that the attack was conducted as revenge against Malala Yousafzai winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Taliban has previously warned that Malala had forged a pact with ‘Western satanic forces’.
After the attack, Malala said she was “heartbroken” by “the senseless and cold-blooded” killings.
In a statement to the press, she said: “I am heartbroken by this senseless and cold blooded act of terror in Peshawar that is unfolding before us. Innocent children in their school have no place in horror such as this. I condemn these atrocious and cowardly acts and stand united with the government and armed forces of Pakistan whose efforts so far to address this horrific event are commendable. I, along with millions of others around the world, mourn these children, my brothers and sisters – but we will never be defeated.”
A teacher was burnt alive while her students were forced to watch the horrifying incident as Taliban gunmen attacked the Army Public School at Peshawar in Pakistan in an apparent revenge attack for a major military offensive in the north Waziristan tribal region.
A man comforts a child who survives a Taliban attack on a school that killed more than 100 people, admits at a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan (Photo: AP)
The woman was singled out from others and burnt alive, because she was married to a soldier in the Pakistan Army.
Tuesday’s attack on the children has been termed as the most brutal attack in Pakistan’s history.
Eyewitnesses recounted with horror, how students were forced to watch their teachers, as their bodies were burned beyond recognition.
Teenage survivor Shahrukh Khan, who ducked below his desk with classmates when four gunmen burst into their room, described how he played dead after being shot in both legs, stuffing his tie into his mouth to stifle his screams.
“I saw a pair of big black boots coming towards me, this guy was probably hunting for students hiding beneath the benches,” the 16-year-old told AFP from the trauma ward of the city’s Lady Reading Hospital.
“The man with big boots kept on looking for students and pumping bullets into their bodies. I lay as still as I could and closed my eyes, waiting to get shot again,” he said.
“My body was shivering. I saw death so close and I will never forget the black boots approaching me — I felt as though it was death that was approaching me.”
Most of their victims, aged from six to 18, were shot in the head and chest.
A woman said that her friend’s daughter escaped the carnage at the school because the blood on her clothing allowed her to play dead.
Bodies of some of the victims, were burned beyond recognition, after suicide bombers blew themselves up in rooms full of children.
There were unconfirmed reports about some of the older students killed by beheading.
A family at the Combined Military hospital in Peshawar was distraught, after the hospital authorities gave them the wrong body of a child. Faces of many children were badly burnt, and some of the dead were disfigured due to the explosions and gunfire.
Official figures stated the death toll at 141, with 132 of them children and 122 injured.
Pakistan intelligence agency personnel carried out raids around Peshawar, and arrested 2 religious leaders, and 27 others in connection with the attacks.
The terrorists struck the Army Public school in Peshawar at noon, when most of the students were in their classrooms. It is believed that the attackers had prior information about the school’s timetable. At the time of attack, 150 children were watching a first-aid demonstration in a hall.
Reports also say that the military was supposed to conduct the first-aid demonstrations and drills for various life-saving measures, to the students.
Dressed in Frontier Corps uniforms, the Arabic-speaking terrorists entered the Army Public School on Warsak Road at around 10 am local time, and went from classroom to classroom shooting innocent children.
The wives of a brigadier and a major were searched out and murdered.
One investigative official told Agencies: ‘They knew that children of many army personnel are studying in the school.
‘Also they had the complete information that wives of certain army officials are teachers in the school.’
Hospitals in Peshawar have reported a severe shortage of blood and essential medical supplies.
In a statement, Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said: ‘Killing innocent children is against the principals of Afghan Taliban and we condemned. Our thoughts are with the families of those who lost their loved ones.’
Major General Asim Bajwa, a spokesman for the Pakistani army, added: ‘Their sole purpose, it seems, was to kill those innocent kids. That’s what they did.’
The Taliban said they sent the gunmen into the building as revenge for a Pakistan military crackdown on the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and allies in North Waziristan tribal heartlands.
The TTP said many of their family members had been killed in the campaign, and said the attack on the school was in revenge for those deaths.
‘We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females,’ said Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani. ‘We want them to feel the pain.’
World leaders have condemned the ghastly attacks and have issued strong statements condemning it.
“Strongly condemn the cowardly terrorist attack at a school in Peshawar.”
“It is a senseless act of unspeakable brutality that has claimed lives of the most innocent of human beings – young children in their school.”
“My heart goes out to everyone who lost their loved ones today. We share their pain & offer our deepest condolences.” – Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a series of tweeted statements.
“The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s horrific attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims, their families, and loved ones. By targeting students and teachers in this heinous attack, terrorists have once again shown their depravity. We stand with the people of Pakistan, and reiterate the commitment of the United States to support the Government of Pakistan in its efforts to combat terrorism and extremism and to promote peace and stability in the region.” – U.S. President Barack Obama.
“The killing of innocent children is contrary to Islam.” – Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani.
“The news of the terrorist attack on a school in Peshawar has shaken me deeply. The hostgage-taking and murder of children and youth is barbarity that cannot be surpassed.” – German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“No cause can justify such brutality. No grievance can excuse such horror. It is an act of horror and rank cowardice to attack defenseless children while they learn. Schools must be safe and secure learning spaces. Getting an education is every child’s right. Going to school should not have to be an act of bravery.” – U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.