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AFP

Pakistan school massacre leaves 141 dead

The Taliban said the school attack was in retaliation to a military offensive [AFP]

Date of publication: 16 December, 2014

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Taliban gunmen attack army-run school in Peshawar, killing at least 141 dead, including 132 children in Pakistan's worst ever terrorist attack.
Taliban insurgents stormed an army-run school in Pakistan on Tuesday, killing at least 141 people, almost all of them children, in the country's bloodiest ever terrorist attack.


Survivors described how the militants went from room to room shooting children as young as 12 during the eight-hour attack at the Army Public School in the northwestern city of Peshawar.


The attack was claimed by the Pakistan Taliban as revenge for a major military offensive in the region. It was condemned by major world powers and organisations.


The Pakistani government and military reaffirmed their determination to defeat the Pakistan Taliban, which has killed thousands since it began its insurgency in 2007.


Chief military spokesman General Asim Bajwa said 132 students and nine staff were killed, and 125 wounded. This toll exceeds the 139 killed in blasts targeting former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in Karachi in 2007.

Teenage survivor Shahrukh Khan described his narrow escape from the militants as they moved through the school, looking for people to kill.

I lay as still as I could and closed my eyes, waiting to get shot again.
- Sharukh Khan, 16-year-old student

The 16-year-old said he and his classmates ducked below their desks when four gunmen burst into their room.

"I saw a pair of big black boots coming towards me, this guy was probably hunting for students hiding beneath the benches," Khan told AFP from his bed in the city's Lady Reading Hospital.


Khan played dead after being shot in both legs, stuffing his tie into his mouth to stifle his screams.


"The man with big boots kept on looking for students and pumping bullets into their bodies. I lay as still as I could and closed my eyes, waiting to get shot again," he said.


"My body was shivering. I saw death so close and I will never forget the black boots approaching me - I felt as though it was death that was approaching me."


'What is their sin?'


Irshadah Bibi, 40, whose 12-year-old son was among the dead, beat her face in grief, throwing herself against an ambulance at the hospital.


"Oh God, why did you snatch away my son? What is the sin of my child and all these children?" she wept.


Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced three days of national mourning and described the attack as a "national tragedy unleashed by savages".


"These were my children. This is my loss. This is the nation's loss," he said.


Funerals of many of the victims had taken place by evening, with the rest to follow Wednesday.


The US president, Barack Obama, condemned the attack as "heinous" and said his country would stand by Pakistan in its struggle against violent extremism.


Narendra Modi, the prime minister India, said he had phoned Sharif to offer condolences and to tell him that India stood firm with its neighbour in fighting terrorism.

'Soft target'


The school on Peshawar's Warsak Road is part of the Army Public Schools and Colleges System, which runs schools nationwide. Its students are aged between 10 and 18.


Pakistan Taliban spokesman Muhammad Khorasani said Tuesday's assault was carried out to avenge Taliban fighters and their families killed in the army's offensive against militant strongholds in North Waziristan.


"We are doing this because we want them to feel the pain of how terrible it is when your loved ones are killed," he said. "We are taking this step so that their families should mourn as ours are mourning."


More than 1,600 militants have been killed since the launch of operation Zarb-e-Azb in June, according to data compiled by AFP from regular military statements.

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