At least 124 students were among 126 people killed today when heavily-armed Arabic speaking Taliban suicide attackers stormed an army-run school, shooting from classroom-to-classroom and taking several hostages using them as human shield in Pakistan’s volatile Peshawar city.
A group of 8-10 suicide attackers wearing paramilitary Frontier Corps uniforms entered Army Public School on Warsak Road around 10.30 (local time) and started indiscriminate firing, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak said.
Official sources said that so far 124 students, one female teacher and one army personnel were killed in the attack. At least 122 others have been injured.
In one of the most gruesome attacks in recent years against children anywhere in the world, the militants went from classroom-to-classroom shooting indiscriminately at the shocked students, eyewitnesses told local media.
One rescued student told reporters that the attackers had long beards and they were wearing ‘shalwar kamiz’.
He said they were speaking Arabic and looked foreigners.
At least 24 bodies were lying in the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) and 60 others in Combined Military Hospital (CMH), Khattak said. At least 43 injured have been shifted to LRH, 40 to CMH and others to nearby hospitals.
He said at least one militant blew himself up inside the building, 2-3 others have been killed and 5-6 attackers are still inside the complex. He declared a three-day mourning.
The attackers are holding several students as hostages using them as human shields to prevent army from storming the building. Official sources said the toll could go up.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack and termed it a “national tragedy.” He has reached Peshawar to personally monitor the operation. Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif has also rushed to Peshawar from Quetta.
A police official said that the school has been cordoned off, with a rescue operation in progress. About 500 students and teachers were believed to be inside at the time of attack.
Mushtaq Ghani, provincial information minister, said the militants entered through a graveyard which is adjacent to the school, called Army Public School.
The school is close to Saint Mary High School located at the start of Warsak Road which was also under threat for last couple of days.
A heavy contingent of police and security forces have blocked the roads leading to the school, taking control of the entire area.
In a brief statement, the army said: “Rescue operation by troops underway. Exchange of fire continues. Bulk of student and staff evacuated. Reports of some children and teachers killed by terrorist.”
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman claimed that its six suicide bombers attacked army school, saying it was a revenge for the army’s operation against militants in the North Waziristan tribal area close to Peshawar.
“We want them to feel our pain,” the spokesman said.