A Taliban attack on an Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan, has left more than 120 dead and dozens wounded. At least 100 of those killed were children.
Military officials have confirmed that 10 Taliban gunmen dressed in Pakistani army uniforms stormed the school of approximately 500 students and teachers at 11:00 local time (06:00 GMT), while more soldiers stood guard outside. The school was shaken by two explosions, followed by prolonged small-arms fire which continued throughout the raid as security forces attempted to retake the building. While the school is situated on the edge of the Peshawar military cantonment, the majority of pupils are civilian.
“As the firing started, our teacher asked us to bend down and we went to a corner of the class. After one hour, when firing reduced, [an] army officer came and rescued us. As we came out, we saw on the way in corridors our friends lying dead on ground, hit by bullets- some with three, some with four bullets. They were bleeding,” Muhammad Naeem, one of the surviving students, told RT.
According to Taliban spokesperson Muhammad Umar Khorasani, the attack took place in retaliation to the ongoing Pakistan Army operation against the Pakistani Taliban and its allies in the North Waziristan tribal area. He said that the attackers, among whom were six suicide bombers, had been ordered to allow the youngest students to escape and kill the rest.
“We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females,” said Khorasani. “We want them to feel our pain.”
Videos recorded at the scene show a number of children in uniforms being led away from the school by soldiers; army officials have raised fears that an unknown number of pupils and teachers have been taken hostage.
Following the provincial government’s announcement of a three-day mourning period in the aftermath of the attack, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif referred to the attack as a national tragedy, also saying that he would personally supervise the army operation in Peshawar.
“I can’t stay back in Islamabad,” he said as part of his public statement. “This is a national tragedy unleashed by savages. These were my kids.”