On Tuesday morning, at about 9.30am, the Army Public School in Peshawar was stormed by six militants wearing uniforms of the Frontier Corps (FC). They went from classroom to classroom, firing indiscriminately. A total of 141 were killed, 132 of which were children.
Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack. TTP spokesperson Mohammad Umar Khorasani, said that the attack was carried out as revenge for the killings of Taliban members and their families during the ongoing Military operation Zarb-e-Azb, taking place in North Waziristan. “We selected the army’s school because the government is targeting our families and females,” he said. “We want them to feel the pain.”
One of the surviving students related that he was sitting with some of his class fellows when they heard the firing.
“We ran to hide, but the militants found us and asked us to read the Kalima-e-Shahadah”, said Dawood, who was the only survivor from his 9th grade class.
Mudasar Abbas, a laboratory assistant, said that when the militants started the attack some of the students were having a function. Six people walked from class to class and open fired on the children, he added.
Among the 6 militants, one blew himself in classroom while others were killed by military forces. Many of the dead were killed by the suicide bombing of one of the militants, said Provincial Information Minister Mushtaq Ghani.
DG ISPR Asim Bajwa, during a press conference, stated that the militants entered the school from an unguarded area. He further stated that the militants started firing as soon as they entered the school premises, indicating that they were not there to take any hostages. The Pakistan military reached within 15 minutes of the attack and day-long operation ended at about 6pm in the evening.
The attack was condemned by leaders of all major political parties, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif , who immediately left for Peshawar cancelling all meetings in Islamabad which were due for the day.
The premier, while talking to the media, called the incident a national tragedy and announced a day of national mourning for the next day. “These are my children; they are my loss”, he said.
This is not the first time that the militants have attacked schools in the north of Pakistan. On December 2010, a school bus was bombed on the outskirts of Peshawar. In September 2011, another school bus went through a similar fate in the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). In October 2012, Taliban militants shot recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousufzai, injuring her and her 3 friends, in Swat. In June 2013, 15 female university students were killed in Quetta when a female suicide bomber blew herself up inside a university bus. In January 2014, a suicide bomber tried to attack a school in Hangu, but was stopped by a student named Aitzaz Hasan, who died fighting the militant. In September of that same year, a reconstructed school was blown up in Bajaur Agency.
The Taliban have time and again shown their fear for education. This might be the hardest day for Pakistan in our battle against terrorism, but the fight is not yet over.