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Taliban Attack Pakistan School; More Than 100 Dead
From the Wall Street Journal of Tue, 16 Dec 2014 07:44:37 EST
Taliban gunmen stormed a military-run school in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing at least 104 people, most of them schoolchildren, in one of the militant group's most horrifying and deadliest attacks. Photo: AP

PESHAWAR, Pakistan—Taliban gunmen stormed a military-run school in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing at least 104 people, most of them schoolchildren, in one of the militant group’s deadliest attacks.

Children remained trapped in the school as hostages some five hours after the attack in the city of Peshawar first began, officials said.

“These children were innocent,” said Pervaiz Khattak, the provincial chief minister, adding that the attackers wore the uniform of the Frontier Corps paramilitary force.

Even by the bloody standards of Pakistan, Tuesday’s assault on school children and the scale of the killings in Peshawar created a new grim milestone in the country’s seven-year-old battle against Islamist insurgents.

Security officials said at least five gunmen entered the Army Public School on Warsak Road in Peshawar, capital of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, around 11 a.m. local time, and took control of the main building.

The Army Public School is part of a military-run system of schools across Pakistan, offering education from primary to high-school levels, and is open to children of military personnel as well as civilians.

Provincial government officials said at least 1,500 students, from preschool to high school, were present on campus when the attack occurred. Most of them have managed to flee the compound, according to the Pakistani military.

Peshawar’s hospitals put the death toll at 104, at least 89 of them children. Many of those injured had life-threatening wounds.

“More and more people are being brought in, so this could get worse,” said Shahram Khan Tarakai, the provincial health minister.

Muhammad Khurasani, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the group had sent six suicide attackers as “revenge for the military operation in Waziristan.”

Taliban gunmen stormed a military school in Pakistan, killing dozens of people, most of them schoolchildren, in the worst militant attack to hit the troubled region in months. Video: AP

The Pakistani military earlier this year launched a major operation to clear the Taliban strongholds in the North Waziristan tribal area on the Afghan frontier.

The Pakistani Taliban, formed in 2007, is closely linked to al Qaeda. The group was inspired by the Afghan Taliban but works independently, pursuing more brutal tactics.

It was the Pakistani Taliban that took responsibility for the attempted assassination of Nobel Prize winning schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai two years ago.

“They have attacked funerals and mosques, for them there is no limit. They are operating outside human values,” said Mehmood Shah, a retired security official in Peshawar. “They want to terrorize the population into submission.”

Pakistani officials long feared that the North Waziristan operation, launched in June, would unleash revenge attacks by militants across the country. However, until Tuesday’s assault, the blowback had been relatively muted. Since the army’s offensive began, there had been no major Taliban attacks in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the province that borders the tribal areas and is often on the front line of the violence.

“No one should be in any doubt that our fight against terrorism will continue,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said after arriving in Peshawar Tuesday. “There will be no dent in our resolve as a result of incidents like this.”

The raid on the Peshawar school was so extreme that it drew condemnation even from some groups aligned with Islamist militancy.

“This was carried out by the enemies of Islam. It is open terrorism,” said Hafiz Saeed, the leader of Jamaat ud Dawa, the group blamed by the international community for the 2008 attack on Mumbai that left 166 people dead. “These are barbarians operating under the name of jihad.”

The Peshawar attack is thought to be the bloodiest assault on a school since the 2004 Beslan school siege in Russia, which left nearly 400 dead.

Army and police personnel surrounded the Peshawar school’s building shortly after the assault began. By 4 p.m. local time, security officials said that most of the large school campus had been cleared and five attackers killed.

“We have moved in, and are trying to clear the area very carefully,” a military official said.

Footage aired on local TV channels showed visibly distraught parents searching for their children at the Lady Reading Hospital. Many were shown waiting outside the security cordon at the school. Students in green and white school uniforms were seen receiving medical assistance on hospital beds.

Pakistan School Attack by Taliban Leaves More Than 100 Dead

Taliban militants stormed a military run school in Pakistan on Tuesday, killing dozens, many of them schoolchildren.

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An injured student was carried to safety after Taliban militants stormed a military-run school in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday
An injured student was carried to safety after Taliban militants stormed a military-run school in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday Mohammad Sajjad/Associated Press
A hospital security guard helped an injured student. The attack saw more than 100 people killed, most of them schoolchildren.
A hospital security guard helped an injured student. The attack saw more than 100 people killed, most of them schoolchildren. Mohammad Sajjad/Associated Press
A schoolboy who was injured in the attack received medical treatment at a hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan. At least five gunmen entered the school, according to security officials.
A schoolboy who was injured in the attack received medical treatment at a hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan. At least five gunmen entered the school, according to security officials. Arshad Arbab/European Pressphoto Agency
A man placed his arm around a student outside the school. Some children still remain trapped in the school.
A man placed his arm around a student outside the school. Some children still remain trapped in the school. Khuram Parvez/Reuters
A soldier escorted schoolchildren from the school.
A soldier escorted schoolchildren from the school. Khuram Parvez/Reuters
Schoolchildren ran across a road as they fled from the school.
Schoolchildren ran across a road as they fled from the school. Khuram Parvez/Reuters
A Pakistani army soldier took position on a bunker close to the school.
A Pakistani army soldier took position on a bunker close to the school. Mohammad Sajjad/Associated Press
Pakistani army troops arrived at the school.
Pakistani army troops arrived at the school. Mohammad Sajjad/Associated Press
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“According to the latest reports we’ve received, at least five of the attackers entered the school from the side that borders a graveyard,” provincial information minister Mushtaq Ghani told reporters. “They are using children as human shields, this is a very difficult situation.”

The Pakistani military said that most of North Waziristan is clear of militants, though it admits that many left before the well-flagged operation began.

Part of the Pakistani Taliban is based in eastern Afghanistan, beyond the reach of the Pakistani army. Islamabad is seeking cooperation from U.S.-led coalition force in Afghanistan and the Afghan army to act against the Pakistani Taliban sanctuaries in the Kunar and Nuristan provinces in the east of Afghanistan.

North Waziristan, a stronghold for Pakistani militants, Afghan insurgent and al Qaeda, was the last major part of the tribal areas that hadn’t been cleared. Pakistan began a series of operations against militants in 2009 in the northwest of the country, but North Waziristan had been left to fester until this year.

Write to Saeed Shah at saeed.shah@wsj.com



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