Terrorist Massacre on Peshawar School Leaves 130 Children Dead
By Zainab Tahir, Editor-in-Chief
On the morning of December 16, 2014, nearly 800 young students sat in their classrooms at the Army Public School located in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, anticipating another normal day of school.
It was 10 a.m when seven gunmen disguised with the uniforms of the Pakistani paramilitary force, infiltrated the school through the back entrance all the way to the auditorium where a first aid lecture was taking place, and began to fire shots on the students gathered there.
According to TIME Magazine’s report, “Mohammad, 14, was seated on the left side of the hall, listening to the instructor discuss bandaging, when he heard shooting outside a door in the back. A gunman with a long beard and scarf covering half his face entered seconds later. ‘Anyone in the room whose parents are in the Army?’ he shouted three times.” The room turned chaotic and students tried to escape through the side entrances, only to be gunned down in the school’s garden. Security personnel immediately responded to the scene, and within 8 hours had captured all the gunmen and rescued any hostages. But the damage had been done.
In one of the most terrifying and devastating attacks in Pakistan’s history, 141 innocent lives were lost -- 132 of those children between the ages of 8 and 18.
The attack was in retaliation by the Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP), because of the Pakistani Armed Forces conduction of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. The operation was launched by the Pakistani military in response to the June 8th attack on the Jinnah International Airport located in Karachi, and executed by the Taliban. The military launched this offensive against Taliban groups located in North Waziristan in Pakistan, which is a very violent and unstable region due to the presence of the TTP. Almost 2,100 casualties have occurred due to the operation, but the Pakistani military has stated that almost 90% of North Waziristan has been cleared up of Taliban activity.
Due to this attack, the Taliban retaliated by hitting the military at their weakest point -- their children. Many of the children in the Army Public School are children of military personnel, and according to Al Jazeera reporter Kamal Hyder, "Many TTP members have lost their family members and they have said they want to inflict pain, but many ordinary people put their children in military schools because of the relatively higher standard of education, so normal people have been hit as well by this."
Devastated and terrified parents frantically searched for their children after being notified of the attack. Tears and anguish filled the halls of the nearest hospital as small, wounded bodies began to get carried in. The entire country, as well as the international community, felt the blow of the attack on a personal level. Just a few days after the Newtown School shooting anniversary, parents everywhere held their children closer that night.
Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, called it a “national tragedy,” saying that those killed were “my children.” In response to how to deal with the attack, he lifted the ban on the death penalty, while the Pakistani Army Chief Justice, General Raheel Sharif, went to Kabul, Afghanistan to discuss capturing and effectively dealing with terrorists escaping into both countries. The school reopened on January 12, and Samina Irshad, section head of the Middle School at the Army Public School, stated that “From the outside, we may look healed up,” furthering mentioning that "Our internal wounds, they'll take time." In terms of how the teachers are reacting, she states that "Even those [kids] who used to make us angry in the past. We just go and hug them, and love them and just say, 'Thank God, you're OK!' "
In terms of the students who survived, TIME reporter Muhammed Muheisen says, “They’re talking but it’s like they’re not aware of what happened.” and “From one student to another, the impact is different. But you can see through the body language of the students what they [went] through.” But in the face of adversity, there are students who are even more determined to fight back. Sixteen year old Afaq stated that “I always wanted to become a doctor, but now I want to join the army and fight terrorism and save lives,” and “I don’t want to just cure my people, I want to make sure that they never get harmed.” Whereas twelve year old Muzammil said “I will protect my country with a pen, not a gun.”
President Obama was one of many world leaders who condemned the attacks. In a statement, he mentioned, "By targeting students and teachers in this heinous attack, terrorists have once again shown their depravity. We stand with the people of Pakistan, and reiterate the commitment of the United States to support the government of Pakistan in its efforts to combat terrorism and extremism and to promote peace and stability in the region." The Taliban’s attack did the opposite of what they had hoped; instead of inciting fear, it ignited the spark within the Pakistani people and the world to fight against terrorism with even more veracity.
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