Pakistan mourns the dead in Peshawar school attack
Grief-stricken relatives have begun to bury the 141 victims of the massacre committed by the Pakistani Taliban at an army-run school in the north-western city of Peshawar on Tuesday.
Authorities confirmed that 132 children were amongst the dead, along with nine members of staff. All seven militants who carried out the raid were also confirmed to have been killed.
After a tense eight-hour security operation to flush out the attackers, all of whom were wearing suicide vests, the army reported that no demands were made by the gunmen, who indiscriminately fired shots and threw grenades through the corridors.
As events unfolded, crowds of anxious parents gathered at the school gates, frantic for news, as explosions and gunfire erupted throughout the school building.
In the aftermath, hospitals were overwhelmed by families desperately searching for their children. A crushing sense of grief fell over the city as mourning began for those who would not be returning home from school on one of Pakistan’s deadliest days of violent extremism.
A spokesperson for the Pakistani Taliban fighters (TTP), Muhammad Umar Khorasani, said the attack had been carried out as revenge for military operations in the North Waziristan area of the country, where many of the TTP’s family members had been killed. However, the horrifying slaughter of innocent school children and their teachers is unlikely to have won the TTP any support for their cause. Rather, it has only served to enrage the public and Pakistani army.
The country’s army chief Raheel Sharif reflected the widespread anger and promised to “pursue these monsters and their facilitators until they are eliminated for good”. The pledge to step up the offensive against the Taliban was reinforced by prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who vowed to account for “each and every drop of our children’s blood”.
The US – Pakistan’s closest ally in the fight against insurgents – swiftly offered their support, with secretary of state John Kerry describing the events as “gut-wrenching” and reaffirming US “solidarity with and support for Pakistan in the struggle against extremism”.
Malala Yousafzai, one of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize recipients, who herself survived a Taliban attack in 2012, described her devastation at the latest atrocity, stating: “Innocent children in their school have no place in horror such as this… I, along with millions of others around the world, mourn these children, my brothers and sisters – but we will never be defeated.”