At least 126 people were killed today when Taliban gunmen attacked a military-run school in Peshawar, Pakistan. More than 100 of the dead were children aged between 12 to 16 years old, officials said.
The horrific attack which has been described as the worst to hit the country in years was carried out by a relatively small number of militants from the Tehreek-e-Taliban group, a Pakistani militant group trying to overthrow the government.
The attack began in the morning hours, with about half a dozen gunmen entering the school – and shooting at random. Army commandos quickly arrived at the scene and started exchanging fire with
the gunmen. Dozens of the wounded flooded local hospitals as terrified parents searched for their children.
“My son was in uniform in the morning. He is in a casket now,” wailed one parent, Tahir Ali, as he came to the hospital to collect the body of his 14-year-old son Abdullah. “My son was my dream. My dream has been killed.”
Traumatized children who were lucky enough to escape alive also recalled the bloodshed. One of the wounded students, Abdullah Jamal, said that he was with a group of 8th, 9th and 10th graders who were getting first-aid instructions and training with a team of Pakistani army medics when the violence began for real.
When the shooting started, Jamal, who was shot in the leg, said nobody knew what was going on in the first few seconds.
“Then I saw children falling down who were crying and screaming. I also fell down. I learned later that I have got a bullet,” he said, speaking from his hospital bed.
Another student, Amir Mateen, said they locked the door from the inside when they heard the shooting but gunmen blasted through the door anyway and began shooting.
Taliban spokesman Mohammed Khurasani claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call to media, saying that six suicide bombers had carried out the attack in revenge for the killings of Taliban members at the hands of Pakistani authorities.
“We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females,” Khorasani said, according to Reuters. “We want them to feel the pain.”
Khorasani said that the attackers had been ordered to shoot the older students but not the young children. However, the chief minister said there were eight attackers, dressed in military uniforms. Two were killed by security forces and one blew himself up, Khattak said. The rest were still fighting.
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