Pakistan: Attack on school ends; militants dead, over 100 students killed
About 140 people, mostly school children, were massacred when heavily armed militants stormed an army-run school in Peshawar. The terror attack is now over with all six militants killed
Peshawar: In one of the worst acts of human savagery ever perpetrated, the Pakistani Taliban senselessly slaughtered 141 people, 132 of them children, in a brazen terror attack launched by its heavily armed gunmen and suicide bombers on an army-run school in Pakistan's Peshawar city in retaliation to the army's operation against extremists in North Waziristan.
Pakistan police said the attack on a school in Peshawar is over and all six militants have been killed. Police is now clearing explosives planted inside the school premises.
A pall of gloom descended over Pakistan as the terror bloodbath at the Army Public School in Peshawar, capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, left scores of children dead and wounded 245 people. Many suffered serious life threatening injuries.
Geo News, citing authorities of the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) and Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) in Peshawar, said at least 137 people died in the carnage. While 106 bodies were in CMH, 31 were in LRH, the report said.
A hospital security guard helps a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar. Pic: AP/PTI
Earlier, there were conflicting reports about the number of dead. State-run Radio Pakistan said 126 children were killed. ARY News said 129 people were killed, while other media outlets put the toll at 132, most of them children.
Television footage showed heart-rending images of the frightened children in tears, some with blood on their faces, as security forces rushed in to tackle the terrorists who went on a killing spree.
Many of the dead were shot on their head and chest from point blank range.
The terrorists went from classroom to classroom as children quivered in fear beneath desks and chairs.
“We were assembled in an auditorium when terrorists barged in from the backdoor. We were screaming and they started firing at us.
“I hid myself under the table and got hit by a bullet in my leg,” said an injured student.
This attack comes only a day after a hostage crisis in Sydney that ended after the Iran-born assailant was killed.
The Taliban, which in 2012 shot at Malala Yousufzai who went on to share the Nobel Peace Prize this year with India’s Kailash Satyarthi, claimed responsibility for the attack. The terror group called it a revenge attack for the army operations against militants in North Waziristan.
Security forces killed six of the terrorists as they neutralised the attackers.
A Pakistani woman weeps as she waits at a hospital, where victims of a Taliban attack are being treated in Peshawar. Pic: AP/PTI
The Peshawar attack brought to mind Russia's Beslan school tragedy in which nearly 400 people were killed in 2004 by Chechen extremists.
Frightened and traumatised children recalled the Peshawar horror.
"We were in the auditorium. Suddenly firing started and our teacher asked us to lie down. After one hour, the army came for our rescue," a visibly shaken student rasped.
Another young student said: "It was the fourth period. We were in our classes. They (the terrorists) were carrying guns in their hands."
"Our principal told our teacher that the students have to be evacuated. Suddenly we saw army personnel arriving," he added.
As the terror attack progressed and the security forces encircled the school, a string of bombings took place. Over a dozen bomb blasts rang out as security forces took on the militants.
Eyewitnesses said that over 500 students and teachers were trapped inside the school building. Many of the students were later evacuated.
The students were initially under the impression that it was yet another army drill and the horror sank in only after they saw schoolmates being felled by bullets.
The school teachers apparently tried to shepherd the children to safety. Some were able to flee soon after the attack began, while a few others were taken to safety by the security personnel.
“Just as we rushed out of our class, we saw some of our fellows were lying injured in the corridor. There were six to seven dehshatgard (terrorists)," said Mukhtar, a student.
Another student said: “I lost three of my friends. I am angry and upset.”
It was a day of extreme anxiety for the parents.
An anguished parent asked how the terror act could have taken place.
“This is quite shocking... How could terrorists enter such a building?"
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who rushed to Peshawar, said till terrorism is not brought to an end in Pakistan, such acts will continue to happen.
“This is in retaliation for our military operation against the terrorists,” said Sharif.
His Indian counterpart Narendra Modi termed it “a senseless act of unspeakable brutality”.
“My heart goes out to everyone who lost their loved ones today. We share their pain & offer our deepest condolences,” Modi tweeted.
US President Barack Obama, while condemning the attack, said in a statement: “Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims, their families, and loved ones.”
Numbed and horrified by the assault, celebrities from India and Pakistan took to Twitter to condemn the gruesome attack.
A student who identified himself as Shuja told Samaa TV that they were taking examination when firing started. They were told by the teacher to lie down on the floor. He said they remained on floor for about one hour when army soldiers came and told them to go out. Several students escaped through the back gate. One of students who escaped told Dunya TV that fourth period was in progress when they heard firing. "First we didn't know what has happened. But late an army officer told us to escape through back gate," he said.
A welcome ceremony planned in Lahore for the hockey team which won silver medal in the champion trophy in India has been postponed. Pakistan Hockey Federation said that the ceremony would be held at a future suitable time.
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