The massacre of at least 141 persons, mostly children in a militar-run co-educational school Tuesday, has provoked deep outrage and condemnation across the globe, as world leaders react while many others seize various social media platforms to vent their anger on the gruesome killings carried out by Taliban gunmen in Pakistan’s northwestern city Peshawar.
Pakistan’s Military spokesman Asim Bajwa confirmed that 132 children were killed along with nine staff after when the uniformed armed men wearing explosive vests stormed Army Public School and Degree College, firing indiscriminately as they entered the premises.
121 people including students and teachers were critically injured in the attack on the army public school, which has more than 1,000 students and staff.
Children who survived the ordeal were greatly traumatized by the horrific incident that has left the nation in mourning as families on almost every street in Pakistan’s volatile region, began to bury their dead on Tuesday evening.
“In every street of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, someone has lost a dear one today. My aunty lost her son – his funeral is tonight – and then I have to go to my uncle’s house. He lost his wife.” said Qazi Murtaza, 24, of Peshawar, whose cousin and aunt were killed in the attack, the USA Today reports.
Reuters reports that the gunmen who opened fire on the children who were gathered in an auditorium for an event, later went to classrooms and other parts of the school, but were taken on by army commandos leading to an exchange of fire that lasted for about 8 hours, in which all seven gunmen were killed.
Some of the parents who witnessed the incident, watched helplessly as Pakistan security forces engaged the Taliban fighters in a gun battle, which lasted for eight hours, killing all seven Taliban gunmen.
A grieving parent said: “My son was in uniform in the morning. He is in a casket now,” one grieving father, Tahir Ali, cried out as he came to collect his 14-year-old son’s body from the hospital. “My son was my dream. My dream has been killed.”
Recounting his experience, a student said: “We were in the examination hall when all of sudden firing started and our teachers told us to silently lay on the floor,” one student inside the school at the time of the attack told a private television channel. “We remained on the floor for an hour. There was a lot of gunfire. When the gunfire died down our soldiers came and guided us out,” according to the Huffington Post.
16 year old Shahrukh Khan, who was shot in both legs while hiding under a desk as the attackers moved through his classroom, picking off students told AFP: “I folded my tie and pushed it into my mouth so that I wouldn’t scream.”
Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani in a phone call to the media claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the attack was a reprisal for the killings of Taliban members at the hands of Pakistani authorities.
“We targeted the school because the army targets our families. We want them to feel our pain.” The Taliban group said in a statement.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared three days of national mourning following the attack said that he was headed to Peshawar and will “supervise the operation”.
The Prime Minister said: “These are my children and it is my loss.”
The United States president, Barack Obama in a statement on Tuesday said: “Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims, their families, and loved ones, by targeting students and teachers in this heinous attack, terrorists have once again shown their depravity.
Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper said: “It is beyond our comprehension why somebody would target children. As rational and compassionate people, to understand terrorism and understand why people would want, in the name of some political cause, to simply terrorize, hurt kill innocent people, whole sections of society.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it was a “an act of horror and rank cowardice to attack defenceless children while they learn.”
Former British PM and United Nations Special Envoy for Education, Gordon Brown, speaking from Kinshasha capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he is visiting schools and meeting children, said: “We are already mourning a human tragedy of monstrous proportion that will bring grief to every school in the world. “No child should expect that when he or she goes to school that their lives are at risk. “No parent should have to fear that when their child leaves home for class that they should never return.”
Nobel Prize-winning Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for promoting girls’ education, in a video statement grieved the loss of the children, and condemned the murder of the children.
“My family and I are heartbroken after hearing the news that more than 100 innocent children and teachers have lost their lives. We stand with all those families and all those children who are injured right now and who are suffering through this big trauma.
Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi speaking a television broadcast on NDTV said: “It’s the most shocking incident, in my knowledge, in my life. These children are my children” I beg the Taliban, take me and leave these children.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Ibn Al-Hussein has also condemned the “utterly despicable and incomprehensibly vicious attack on defenceless children,” in the Pakistani city.
Ibn Al-Hussein said: “The Taliban have sunk to an all-time depth with this attack,” Ibn Al-Hussein said in a press release from his office in Geneva.
“Everyone must now unite to combat this type of savage extremism. No government or intelligence agencies, no religious figures, no wealthy sponsors, no members of the general public can possibly justify continuing support for the Taliban, ISIL, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda or any of these takfiri groups which appear to be competing to attain the highest level of human barbarity.”
“Running out of words to condemn the horrific cold blooded killings of these children,” an Al Jazeera follower on said on twitter.