- 142 people, including 133 students and 9 staffers killed, 121 injured as terrorists attack Army Public School in Peshawar
- ISPR DG says terrorists wanted maximum life losses, had no intention of taking hostages
- TTP Fazlullah Group claims responsibility of attack, says they avenged killing of their comrades
- PM announces three days of mourning, national flag to fly at half mast
Perturbed by our elders, the Taliban came for our children. They had no demands and wanted no hostage. In the name of the Most Merciful, they mercilessly killed 133 students and nine staffers at Army Public School, Warsak Road, Peshawar, also injuring several others, in one of Pakistan’s most deadly and tragic terrorist attacks in the country’s history.
With bloodstained bodies making their way to the nearby hospitals, Tuesday saw Pakistan’s skies weeping gorily. As night fell, security forces wrapped up the operation that lasted more than eight hours and involved intense gunbattles.
Six gunmen, allegedly from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Fazlullah Group– the claimant of the attack, were equipped with suicide vests, modern weapons and ammunition and at least 9 explosions were heard inside the high school at the height of the massacre.
Claiming the attack’s responsibility, TTP Fazlullah spokesperson Mohammad Umar Khurasani said, “Six attackers were sent to avenge army’s killing of our comrades and dumping of their bodies. We had told our men not to kill children below the age of thirteen.”
The terrorists, who several students said communicated with each other in a foreign language, possibly Arabic, a fact also confirmed by the Pakistan military, managed to slip past the school’s tight security because at least some of them were wearing Pakistani paramilitary uniforms, some witnesses said.
Outside the school, as helicopters rumbled overhead, police struggled to hold back distraught parents who were trying to break past a security cordon and get inside. About 1,099 children were registered at the school and 960 people were rescued from the location, the military’s chief spokesperson said.
The principal of the school, Tahira Qazi, was also killed during the attack. Students said the terrorists had set her body on fire after killing her.
Inside the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) and Lady Reading Hospital (LRH), the corridors were lined with dead students with their green-and-yellow school uniform ties peeping out of the white body bags.
Officials said 121 pupils and three staff members were wounded. A local hospital said the dead and injured were aged from 10 to 20 years old. Seven SSG commandoes and two officers also sustained severe injuries during the search and rescue operation.
“The moment the terrorists entered the school premises, they started firing. They wanted to render maximum life losses and had no intention of taking hostages or present any demands. Their sole purpose, it seems, was to kill those innocent kids. That’s what they did. No one could have imagined that terrorists would have targeted innocent children like this. Forget about being Muslims, these terrorists are not even human,” said Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Asim Bajwa while addressing a press conference in Peshawar.
“Seven terrorists wearing suicide vests and carrying explosives barged into the school from backside of the building, went straight to the auditorium and started indiscriminate firing,” he said, adding that the militants had brought rations for several days, implying that they may have intended to take the students hostage.
“The attackers were pushed to the administrative block by Quick Response Force (QRF) which arrived at the scene in 15 minutes. All the attackers were killed in the administrative block. The forces have also cleared the school of the IEDs planted by terrorists. The operation was completed by Maghrib prayers and the school building has now been handed over to the management,” he added.
Bajwa said that three terrorists were targeted by Special Services Group (SSG) and QRF personnel through ventilators while three others were also killed in the same building. One terrorist blew himself up, he added.
“Based on actionable intelligence, several operations have been put into action including 10 airstrikes in Tirah in Khyber (agency) today. We will continue to go after the beasts and their facilitators till their elimination,” Bajwa said, implying that the attackers were Tirah-based.
Asked whether the army had any clue of the terrorists, Bajwa said, “We have identified the group and also have a clue as to who was controlling them. However, we can’t share (with you) more information as follow-up operations are being conducted.” He added that more information would be shared with the media in two or three days about the identity of the perpetrators.
Responding to another question, Bajwa admitted slackness and neglect by army and local law enforcement agencies, stating that the terrorists must have conducted reconnaissance of the school, passing on the site information to the terrorists.
Bajwa said that Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif had cut short his Quetta trip, arrived Peshawar and moved the SSG team. “The COAS will stay here and will be monitoring the operation,” he added.
In the meanwhile, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has announced nationwide three-day mourning in wake of the national tragedy while the national flag will fly at half mast.