17 Dec 2014

#PeshawarAttack: Death toll reaches 141 in massacre at Pakistan school

Taliban gunman stormed a military-run school in Peshawar on Tuesday and massacred 141 people, nearly all children, an act of barbarism that left Pakistanis in shock as they mourned the loss of relatives and friends.
"In every street of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, someone has lost a dear one today," said Qazi Murtaza, 24, of Peshawar, whose cousin and aunt were killed in the attack. "My aunty lost her son – his funeral is tonight – and then I have to go to my uncle's house. He lost his wife."
The attack on the Army Public School in the northwestern city near the Afghan border was one of the worst incidents of extremist violence in Pakistan since a 2007 suicide bombing in the port city of Karachi killed 150 people. Peshawar has been the target of frequent militant attacks — in September 2013 a twin suicide bomb blast in a church killed at least 85 people.

Asim Bajwa, spokesman for the Pakistani military, said 132 of those killed Tuesday were children and the other nine were staff members. An additional 121 students and three staffers were wounded at the school, which includes more than 1,000 students and staff.

Bajwa said seven gunman stormed the school wearing explosive vests. They did not take hostages but instead fired indiscriminately as they entered the school.
"Their sole purpose, it seems, was to kill those innocent kids. That's what they did," Bajwa said.
Some students said the attackers detonated a bomb when all students were gathered for an exam. The surviving students described a horrifying scene.
"They were wearing plain white shalwar kameez (pajama-like trousers with a long shirt) and had very long beards. They were speaking in Arabic with each other," said Abdul Rehman, 14. "I saw them killing the students. I escaped by hiding under the chair. My best friend was also murdered, though he pleaded for his life."
Hamza Khan, 15, said many students initially thought maintenance work was being done on the building.
"At first we thought there is some repair work going on in the backyard. But then the bullets were fired in the back door of the main hall and the terrorists entered the hall and opened fire on the students," said Khan. "I won't be able to forget the horrid images for the rest of my life. I promise to take revenge for my fellow students — I will fight these cowards and destroy them."
Army commandos moved in, exchanging fire with the gunmen while students scrambled to safety. All seven gunman died in the assault, Bajwa said. It was not clear if they were killed by commandos or blew themselves up.

Pakistan's Taliban spokesman Mohammed Umar Khorasanin said the assault was "a revenge attack" for an army offensive in North Waziristan in June that targeted militants.
"We targeted the school because the army targets our families," he said in a statement. "We want them to feel our pain."
Bajwa tweeted that "several ops" had been launched by Pakistan after the attack, including 10 airstrikes.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed that the push to drive militants from the area would not be deterred. "The fight will continue. No one should have any doubt about it," Sharif said.


Credit: USA Today
Photo Credit: Mohammad Sajjad, AP

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