Today, in northwestern Pakistan, Taliban gunmen entered a military-run school and opened fire, killing at least 131 people, most of whom were children.
Early this morning militants dressed as Pakistani military personnel entered Army Public School in Peshawar, setting a car on fire and carrying out out a heinous and deadly assault on the school. The Pakistani Army arrived on the scene, exchanging gunfire with the militants. Inside the school, militants set off booby trap explosives and allegedly took hostages. Local media claims one attacker detonated a suicide vest.
Mohammed Khurasani, spokesman of Tehrik-i-Taliban (or the Pakistani Taliban), claimed responsibility for the attack, telling Reuters over the phone that six attackers carried out the horrific mass murder to retaliate the Pakistani Army's presence in the North Waziristan area. Apparently, this was revenge for the deaths of Taliban fighters at the hands of Pakistani authorities and "because the government is targeting our families and females."
"Our suicide bombers have entered the school, they have instructions not to harm the children, but to target army personnel…"
The militants, however, see older students at the school as legitimate targets for their attack.
"We want them to feel the pain," Khorasani said.
Pakistani police have declared that all the militants involved in the attack have been killed, and the Pakistani Army states it has since carried out more than 10 airstrikes against the Taliban in Khyber. Meanwhile, various figures are speaking out against the school attack. Nobel Peace Laureate Malala Yousafzai, who survived an attack by the Taliban in 2012, condemned the massacre:
"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."
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stated he will personally supervise army operation in Peshawar. "I can't stay back in Islamabad," he said. "This is a national tragedy unleashed by savages. These were my kids." President Barrack Obama has also released a statement on the tragedy, saying:
"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."
The aftermath of the horrific and inhumane attack, a departure from the Taliban's usual assaults on security checkpoints and police stations and other civilian attacks (like on so-called un-Islamic girls' schools), is still incredibly chaotic. People are lining up at Lady Reading hospital to donate blood, and the death toll is only rising. This should not be the cost of education.
We will be updating this article as we receive more information.
132 children and nine staff members, including the principal of Army Public School died. The death toll is now at 141, making it the deadliest terror attack in the country's history.
Pakistan's Major General Asim Salim told reporters that there were seven militants. Via Guardian.
"The terrorists used a ladder to cross the school walls from the graveyard behind the school. The terrorists and the Pakistani army fought in the administrative block of the school."
He says 960 students and staff were saved in the rescue operation.
Image via AP.