- NEW: Pakistan lifts moratorium on the death penalty after massacre
- Of the 145 people killed, a majority were children between ages 12 and 16
- Attackers gunned down students hiding under benches
- “A lot of the children are under the benches. ‘ “Kill them,’ ” attacker said
Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) — As Pakistan started three days of national mourning Wednesday, horrifying details emerged on a massacre that left 145 people dead, most of them children.
Peshawar city was shut down after 132 children were killed there in an hourslong siege Tuesday at an army school.
Markets remained closed as residents attended somber funerals across the city.
“Even the children are dying on the frontline in the war against terror,” said Khawaja Asif, the defense minister. “The smaller the coffin, the heavier it is to carry.”
A day after the massacre, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted a moratorium on the death penalty for terrorism cases.
Map: Peshawar, Pakistan
Students thought Taliban attack was drill
World leaders condemn Pakistan attack
Malala: Taliban school attack ‘senseless’
Pakistan takes on Taliban militants
Pakistan terror attack: What’s next?
‘Under the benches … kill them’
Taliban militants ambushed the school Tuesday, explosives strapped to their bodies, as they burst into an auditorium filled with students taking an exam. They sprayed bullets on them and burned teachers alive.
Student Ahmed Faraz, 14, recalled the moment the terrorists struck. He was in the auditorium when four or five people burst in through a back door and started firing rapidly.
“‘God is great,'” the militants shouted as they roared through the hallways, Ahmed said.
The sought out terrified children.
” ‘A lot of the children are under the benches,’ ” a Pakistani Taliban said, according to Ahmed. ” ‘Kill them.’ “
The ninth-grader got shot in his left shoulder and lay under a bench.
“My shoulder was peeking out of the bench,” Ahmed recalled. “They went into another room, (and when) I ran to the exit, I fell.”
Seventh-grader Mohammad Bilal said he was sitting outside his classroom taking a math test when the gunfire erupted. He fell into bushes before running to the school’s gates to safety.
Children drenched in blood
Pakistani troops eventually pushed through the buildings room-by-room, and confined the attackers to four buildings.
They found children drenched in blood. Some of the bodies lay on top of one another.
By the time the siege ended in the evening, military officials said all the seven militants were dead. It’s unclear whether they were killed or they detonated their explosives. The casualty tolls don’t include the terrorists.
The ambush at Army Public School and Degree College left more than 100 injured, many with gunshot wounds, according to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province Information Minister Mushtaq Ghani.
The army school is home to about 1,100 students and staff, most of them sons and daughters of army personnel from around Peshawar.
It started with a ruse
The nightmare began in late morning, when a car exploded behind the school. Pakistani authorities said the blast was a ruse to divert the security guards’ attention.
Gunmen got over the walls and walked through where students in grades 8, 9 and 10 have classes.
The militants came in with enough ammunition and other supplies to last for days and were not expecting to come out alive, according to a Pakistani military official.
Most of those killed were between the ages of 12 and 16, said Pervez Khattak, chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, of which Peshawar is the capital.
Some adults were also targeted, including a 28-year-old office assistant who was shot and burned alive, police official Faisal Shehzad said.
Goal was to kill, not take hostages
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Mohammed Khurrassani said the militants’ intention was to kill students.
The Taliban had “300 to 400 people … under their custody” at one point, said Khurrassani, whose group is called Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan, or TTP.
But Pakistani authorities said there was no hostage situation, and the attackers’ focus was shooting to kill rather than taking captives.
Pakistan has seen plenty of violence, much of it involving militants targeting restive regions in northwest Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan.
It is the home base of the TTP, which seeks to enforce its conservative version of Islam in Pakistan. The group has battled Pakistani troops and attacked civilians including in Peshawar, an ancient city of more than 3 million people.
And the Taliban hasn’t hesitated to go after schoolchildren. Their most notable target is Malala Yousafzai, who was singled out and shot in October 2012 as she rode to school in a van with other girls. The teenage girl survived and became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize last week for her efforts to promote education and girls’ rights.
Yousafzai said the attack left her heartbroken.
“Innocent children in their school have no place in horror such as this,” she said.
Afghan Taliban slam Pakistan counterparts
This is the deadliest incident inside Pakistan since October 2007, when 139 Pakistanis died and more than 250 others were wounded in an attack near a procession for exiled former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, according to the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database.
Even the Taliban in Afghanistan, who are closely affiliated with their Pakistani counterparts, criticized the killing of women and children as against Islamic teaching.
The spokesman of the Afghan terror group expressed condolences to the victims of Tuesday’s attack.
CNN’s Sophia Saifi reported from Islamabad, along with journalists Saleem Mehsud, Zahir Shah and Adeel Raja. CNN’s Greg Botelho and Faith Karimi wrote from Atlanta.
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.
Want something else to read? How about ‘Grievous Censorship’ By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed’s Blog