“Someone screamed at us to get down and hide below the desks”, recounts Shahrukh Khan, 16, as he speaks from his bed in the trauma ward of the city’s Lady Reading Hospital adding that the gunmen shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is greatest) before opening fire.3
Hunted and Gunned Down Like Dogs
Then one of them shouted: ‘There are so many children beneath the benches, go and get them’ Khan told AFP (Agene France-Presse).3
Speaking from his bed in the trauma ward of the city’s Lady Reading Hospital, Shahrukh Khan, 16, “Someone screamed at us to get down and hide below the desks”, he said, adding that the gunmen shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is greatest) before opening fire.3
Shot on the leg, Khan pretended to be dead while gunmen methodically shot his classmates and teachers. “When I crawled to the next room, it was horrible. I saw the dead body of our office assistant on fire. She was sitting on the chair with blood dripping from her body as she burned.”3
Ordered to shoot older students3 the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants stormed the army-run school in Peshawar and systematically went from room to room, shooting children (ages 10-18) during an 8 hour killing spree.4
There is nothing casual or accidental in the choice of school or target of an attack. The Taliban have long condemned education for children, especially female children, arguing that it goes against the teachings of the Koran. This is specious, at best, because Islam is noted for scholarship and scientific progress, and the world owes what it knows of mathematics, astronomy and other forms of science to ancient Islamic Scholars.2
Army Public School is attended by boys and girls from both military and civilian backgrounds.3
Any schools, but particularly girls’ schools, are considered soft targets to further the militants’ ultra-orthodox agenda. In fact, the attack on Malala Yousafzai was part of the fundamentalist strategy.
“In October 2012, Mullah Fazlullah, then leader of the TNSM (a Sunni extremist group), ordered the killing of fourteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai for standing up for girls’ right to education.”1Yousafzai was shot in the face a few years back because she dared speak out in favor of education for girls in Pakistan. It was in recognition of her courage and determination to champion the cause of education for girls, wherever in the world they may be, that Malala was awarded this year (2014) the Nobel Peace Prize. To this day, a standing order for her death awaits her in Pakistan.2
Attacking the school in Peshawar then was part of the Taliban’s terrorist logic.1
“I saw the dead body of our office assistant on fire. She was sitting on the chair with blood dripping from her body as she burned.” survivor Shahrukh Khan, 16, says. It was not immediately clear how the female employee’s body caught fire, though her remains were also later seen by an AFP reporter in a hospital mortuary.3
Reason Behind The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Led Massacre
The mass murder carried out by the Pakistani Taliban was so horrific, so brutal, that even the Afghan Taliban condemned the massacre as “un-Islamic”.1
The Pakistani Taliban justified the attack as retaliation against the Pakistan army’s continuing offensive in the country’s so-called ‘tribal belt’, which borders Afghanistan and where the Taliban draw much of their support. Peshawar is close to the Afghan border.1
TTP spokesperson Muhammad Umar Khorasani said the assault was carried out to avenge Taliban fighters and their families killed in the Army’s offensive against militant strongholds in North Waziristan. “We are doing this because we want them to feel the pain of how terrible it is when your loved ones are killed. We are taking this step so that their families should mourn as ours are mourning”.4“This is a reaction to the killing of our children and dumping of bodies of our mujahideen” a spokesman of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said.1
A Strategy Born Out Of Desperation
To be sure it is difficult to distinguish between desperation and strategy. The gunmen were there to make a statement, that they were bringing the fight directly to the families of the soldiers who were fighting them.1The killings was in retaliation for a major military offensive in the region.2
“The militants know they won’t be able to strike at the heart of the military. They don’t have the capacity. So they are going for soft targets” said Talat Masood, a retired general and security analyst.4
It may be too early to tell whether the Pakistani military offensive is a triumph or not, but the attack on the Peshawar school is proof that the belated campaign is taking its toll, and the Taliban are hurting.1
A History of Carnage
The attack comes as US and Nato troops this month end their combat mission in neighboring Afghanistan, 13 years after the US-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime for harboring those responsible for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.4
Taliban fighters have been waging attacks across Afghanistan as well, and some US forces will be deployed to train and advise Afghanistan security forces to combat the threat. Tuesday’s attack, shocking even by the standards of Pakistan, sparked condemnation world-wide and led the Pakistani government and military to reaffirm their determination to defeat a group that has killed thousands since it began its insurgency in 2007.4
A World in Mourning
Karachi declared 3 days of national mourning for the 132 children and nine school staff massacred by the terrorists on Tuesday. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif described the attack as a “national tragedy unleashed by savages”.4
“The barbarism of this attack is an affront to all civilized peoples. There can be no justification for this tragedy, which has dishonored Islam. Today, every person of goodwill is a father, mother, brother and sister to the people of Pakistan” Philippine President Benigno Aquino said.4
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters, “Many of these extremists like to characterize their struggle as a struggle of Muslims against the Western World. But that clearly is not true if the largest number of victims that we’re seeing are actually Muslims. And that makes the situation all the more heartbreaking and all the more tragic.”4
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott offered his own sympathy to Pakistan, as his government deals with the fallout from a cafe siege by a deranged Islamist gunman.4
May We Never Forget the Peshawar, Pakistan Massacre
What: Peshawar, Pakistan Massacre
When: December 16 2014
Where: Main hall of the Army Public School and College in Peshawar, Pakistan
Who: Atleast 7 militant gunmen of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)
Wounded: 124 (121 of them children)1
Death toll: 16 members of the school staff including the female office assistant burned to death, 132 students (ages 10-18). 148 casualties in total.1
1Philippine Daily Inquirer, Editorial. ‘My Brothers and Sisters’, December 19, 2014.
2Philippine Daily Inquirer, At Large. ‘Bloodshed in a time of peace’, Rina-Jimenez-David. December 19, 2014.
3Philippine Daily Inquirer via AFP. ‘I saw death so close, says teener who survived carnage’, December 18, 2014.
4Philippine Daily Inquirer, ‘World one in revulsion vs Taliban bestiality’. Christian V. Esguerra. December 18, 2014.