Taliban assault on pakistan

<html>PESHAWAR, Pakistan — In the deadliest
slaughter of innocents in Pakistan in years,
Taliban gunmen attacked a military-run school
Tuesday and killed 141 people ? almost all of
them students ? before government troops ended
the siege.
The massacre of innocent children horrified a
country already weary of unending terrorist
attacks. Pakistan's teenage Nobel Peace
laureate Malala Yousafzai ? herself a survivor of
a Taliban shooting ? said she was "heartbroken"
by the bloodshed.
Even Taliban militants in neighboring Afghanistan
decried the killing spree, calling it "un-Islamic."
If the Pakistani Taliban extremists had hoped
the attack would cause the government to ease
off its military offensive that began in June in
the country's tribal region, it appeared to have
the opposite effect. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
pledged to step up the campaign that ? along
with U.S. drone strikes ? has targeted the
militants.
"The fight will continue. No one should have any
doubt about it," Sharif said. "We will take
account of each and every drop of our children's
blood."
Taliban fighters have struggled to maintain their
potency in the face of the military operation.
They vowed a wave of violence in response to
the operation, but until Tuesday, there has only
been one major attack by a splinter group near
the Pakistan-India border in November. Analysts
said the school siege showed that even
diminished, the militant group still could inflict
horrific carnage.
The rampage at the Army Public School and
College began in the morning when seven
militants scaled a back wall using a ladder, said
Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa, a military spokesman.
When they reached an auditorium where
students had gathered for an event, they opened
fire.
A 14-year-old, Mehran Khan, said about 400
students were in the hall when the gunmen broke
through the doors and started shooting. They
shot one of the teachers in the head and then
set her on fire and shouted "God is great!" as
she screamed, added Khan, who survived by
playing dead.
From there, they went to classrooms and other
parts of the school.
"Their sole purpose, it seems, was to kill those
innocent kids. That's what they did," Bajwa said.
Of the 141 people slain before government
troops ended the assault eight hours later, 132
were children and nine were staff members.
Another 121 students and three staff members
were wounded.
The seven attackers, wearing vests of
explosives, all died in the eight-hour assault. It
was not immediately clear if they were all killed
by the soldiers or whether they blew themselves
up, he said.
The wounded ? some still wearing their green
school blazers ? flooded into hospitals as
terrified parents searched for their children. By
evening, funeral services were already being held
for many of the victims as clerics announced the
deaths over mosque loudspeakers.
The government declared three days of mourning
for what appeared to be Pakistan's deadliest
since a 2007 suicide bombing in the port city of
Karachi killed 150 people.
"My son was in uniform in the morning. He is in
a casket now," wailed one parent, Tahir Ali, as
he came to the hospital to collect the body of
his 14-year-old son, Abdullah. "My son was my
dream. My dream has been killed."
One of the wounded students, Abdullah Jamal,
said he was with a group of eighth, ninth and
10th graders who were getting first-aid
instructions and training with a team of army
medics when the violence became real. Panic
broke out when the shooting began.
"I saw children falling down who were crying and
screaming. I also fell down. I learned later that I
have got a bullet," he said, speaking from his
hospital bed.
Another student, Amir Mateen, said they locked
the door from the inside when they heard the
shooting, but gunmen blasted through anyway
and opened fire.
Responding to the attack, armored personnel
carriers were deployed around the school, and a
military helicopter circled overhead.
A little more than 1,000 students and staff were
registered at the school, which is part of a
network run by the military, although the
surrounding area is not heavily fortified. The
student body is made up of both children of
military personnel as well as civilians.
Most of the students appeared to be civilians
rather than children of army staff, said Javed
Khan, a government official. Analysts said the
militants likely targeted the school because of its
military connections.
"It's a kind of a message that 'we can also kill
your children,'" said Pakistani analyst Zahid
Hussain.
In a statement to reporters, Taliban spokesman
Mohammed Khurasani claimed responsibility for
the attack, saying it was retribution for the
military's operation in nearby North Waziristan,
the northwestern tribal region where the group's
fighters largely have been based.
"We targeted their kids so that they could know
how it feels when they hit our kids," Khurasani
said. He said the attackers were advised not to
target "underage" children but did not elaborate
on what that meant.
In its offensive, the military said it would go after
all militant groups operating in the region.
Security officials and civilians feared retribution
by militants, but Pakistan has been relatively
calm.
The attack raised the issue of whether this was
the last gasp of a militant group crippled by a
government offensive or whether the militants
could regroup.
Hussain, the Pakistani analyst, called the attack
an "act of desperation."
The violence will throw public support behind the
campaign in North Waziristan, he said. It also
shows that the Pakistani Taliban still maintains a
strong intelligence network and remains a threat.
The attack drew swift condemnation from around
the world. U.S. President Barack Obama said the
"terrorists have once again showed their
depravity."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry added: "The
images are absolutely gut-wrenching: young
children carried away in ambulances, a teacher
burned alive in front of the students, a house of
learning turned into a house of unspeakable
horror."
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India,
Pakistan's longtime regional rival, called it "a
senseless act of unspeakable brutality."
"My heart goes out to everyone who lost their
loved ones today. We share their pain & offer our
deepest condolences," Modi said in a series of
tweeted statements.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it was
a "an act of horror and rank cowardice to attack
defenseless children while they learn."
The violence recalled the attack on Malala
Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by a
Taliban gunman outside her school in the Swat
Valley for daring to speak up about girls' rights.
She survived to become a global advocate for
girls' education and received her Nobel Peace
Prize last week, but has not returned to Pakistan
in the two years since the shooting out of
security concerns.
"Innocent children in their school have no place
in horror such as this," the 17-year-old said. "I
condemn these atrocious and cowardly acts."
———
Santana reported from Islamabad. Associated
Press writers Asif Shahzad in Islamabad, Munir
Ahmed in Peshawar, Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera
Ismail Khan and Danica Kirka in London
contributed to this report.

By: abcnews.com

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