Pakistan Mourns After Taliban Peshawar School Massacre


The Pakistani city of Peshawar is burying its dead after a Taliban attack at a school killed at least 132 children and nine staff.

Mourners crowded around coffins bedecked with flowers, after candlelit vigils were staged overnight.

Gunmen had walked from class to class shooting students in the Pakistani Taliban's deadliest attack to date.

PM Nawaz Sharif has declared three days of mourning over the massacre, which has sparked national outrage.

He also announced an end to the moratorium on the death penalty for terrorism cases.

World leaders have also voiced disgust at the attack, which even the Afghan Taliban have criticised.

At the scene: Mishal Husain, BBC News
It is a very eerie atmosphere. These are premises that should be alive at a time of day like this to the sound of hundreds of children who studied here and began school as normal yesterday. But it is desolate today.

The army has been working through the night to clear the premises of explosives.

I am standing now at the bottom of the white stone steps that lead up to the auditorium. There are blood stains running right down the steps and towards the auditorium itself.

There is a child's shoe on one of the steps. The auditorium, where children were taking exams, was one of the places within the school grounds that the militants first targeted.

As I peer in now, the chairs that the children were sitting on are upturned, the place has been turned upside down and again I can see the blood stains on the floor right around me.

Separately, Pakistan's army says it launched air strikes at militants in the Khyber and North Waziristan areas, although it is not yet clear if this was a direct response to the school attack. An offensive against the militants has been going on since June.

Mr Sharif also convened a meeting of all parliamentary parties in Peshawar to discuss the response.

Classroom to classroom
According to the army, Tuesday's attack was carried out by seven Taliban attackers, all wearing bomb vests.

They cut through a wire fence to enter the school from the rear and attacked an auditorium where children were taking an exam.

Gunmen then went from room to room at the military-run school, shooting pupils and teachers where they found them, survivors say.

The siege at Peshawar's Army Public School, which teaches boys and girls from both military and civilian backgrounds, lasted eight hours.

A total of 125 people were wounded, according to the army, before all seven attackers were killed. Hundreds of people were evacuated.

The Pakistani Taliban sought to justify the attack by saying it was revenge for the army's campaign against them. The school was chosen as a target, the militants said, because their families had also suffered heavy losses.

Mohammad Hilal, a student in the 10th grade, was shot three times in his arm and legs when the gunmen stormed the school auditorium.

“I think I passed out for a while. I thought I was dreaming. I wanted to move but felt paralysed. Then I came to and realised that actually two other boys had fallen on me. Both of them were dead,” he told the BBC.

Zulfiqar Ahmad, 45, the head of the mathematics department who was shot four times during the attack told the BBC he did not believe any of the 18 students in his class had survived.

The victims are also being mourned elsewhere, with India's parliament observing a minute's silence in their honour.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his country's “deepest condolences”.

Mr Sharif pledged to avenge a “national tragedy unleashed by savages”.

“We will take revenge for each and every drop of our children's blood that was spilt today,” he said.

Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old who was shot by the Pakistani Taliban for championing girls' rights to education, also condemned “these atrocious and cowardly acts”.

“Innocent children in their school have no place in horror such as this,” she said.

Pakistani Taliban spokesman Mohammad Khurasani said the militants had been “forced” to launch the attack in response to army attacks.

He accused the military of killing the children and womenfolk of Taliban fighters and burning their homes.

Hundreds of Taliban fighters are thought to have died in the recent Pakistan army offensive in the Khyber area and North Waziristan, regions close to the Afghan border.

16 December 2014: Taliban attack on school in Peshawar leaves at least 141 people dead, 132 of them children

22 September 2013: Militants linked to the Taliban kill at least 80 people at a church in Peshawar, in one of the worst attacks on Christians

10 January 2013: Militant bombers target the Hazara Shia Muslim minority in the city of Quetta, killing 120 at a snooker hall and on a street

28 May 2010: Gunmen attack two mosques of the minority Ahmadi Islamic sect in Lahore, killing more than 80 people

18 October 2007: Twin bomb attack at a rally for Benazir Bhutto in Karachi leaves at least 130 dead. Unclear if Taliban behind attack

In Afghanistan itself, the local Taliban described the school attack as un-Islamic.

The Afghan Taliban are currently stepping up their own attacks in Afghanistan and share roots with the Pakistani Taliban and usually share the same ideology too, the BBC's Mike Wooldridge reports from Kabul.

But their spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that they were sending their condolences to the families of the children killed in the Peshawar attack and that they shared their sadness.

US President Barack Obama said terrorists had “once again shown their depravity” while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it was “an act of horror and rank cowardice”.