Pakistani Taliban Attack on Peshawar School Leaves 145 Dead
Posted On : 2014-12-17 04:03:35
News Type: General ;
First the Pakistani Taliban bombed or burned over 1,000 schools. Then they shot Malala Yousafzai, the teenage advocate for girls' rights.
First the Pakistani Taliban bombed or burned over 1,000 schools. Then they shot Malala Yousafzai, the teenage advocate for girls rights.
But on Tuesday, the Taliban took their war on education to a ruthless new low, with a concerted assault on a crowded school in Peshawar that killed 145 people - 132 of them of them uniformed schoolchildren - in the deadliest single attack in the group s history.
During an eight-hour rampage at the Army Public School and Degree College, a team of nine Taliban gunmen stormed through the corridors and assembly hall, firing at random and throwing grenades.
Some of the 1,100 students at the school Tuesday were lined up and slaughtered with shots to the head. Others were gunned down as they cowered under their desks, or forced to watch their teachers being riddled with bullets.
Their parents crowded around the school gates, listening to the explosions and gunfire as Pakistani commandos stormed the building, praying their children would survive.
With its chilling echoes of Beslan, Russia, where schoolchildren were massacred in 2004, the terror attack in Peshawar deeply traumatized a scarred city that has suffered intense Taliban violence since the insurgency erupted seven years ago. By evening, mosques were filled with mourners carrying small wooden coffins, and residents cried openly in the streets.
A militant spokesman said the attack had been retaliation for the continuing military operation against the group in the North Waziristan tribal region. But the image of children s bodies on the floor of their school auditorium, many of them not yet in their teens, again demonstrated how the Pakistani Taliban s war has all too often been taken out on the country s most vulnerable citizens.
A wave of outrage crossed national boundaries, with statements of support and sympathy for the victims families from around the world.
Even other militant groups felt obligated to comment, though probably more cynically. A spokesman for the Afghan Taliban, which pushed Afghan civilian casualties to a new high in the past year, posted a Twitter message criticizing the attack as un-Islamic and expressing shared pain with the families.
Witnesses in Peshawar said the assault started around 10 a.m., when nine heavily armed militants, disguised in paramilitary uniforms, slipped through a military graveyard and leapt over the back wall of the Army Public School. They rushed through the main building, shooting guns and flinging grenades, before reaching the auditorium where, according to one Pakistani official, a senior army official was giving a first aid course.
First they sprayed the students with bullets; then they singled out the survivors for execution. "Our instructor asked us to duck and lay down," a student named Zeeshan said in an interview at the hospital. "Then I saw militants walking past rows of students shooting them in the head."
Elsewhere in the school, teachers, realizing what was going on, abruptly canceled classes and exams, and tried to protect their charges, who ranged in age from roughly 5 to 17. A 7-year-old named Afaq broke down as he described militants spraying bullets as they rushed his classroom. "They killed our teacher," he said, his eyes welling with tears.
Although early assessments indicated the gunmen were intent on mounting a long siege - some were carrying stores of food, it was later discovered - a senior security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, insisted they had shown no intention of taking hostages. "They were there to kill and this is what they did," he said.