The number of people that have been killed after Taliban gunmen stormed a military school in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar has risen to 126, Pakistani officials say.
It was reported that one suicide bomber blew himself up in a room containing 60 children and a teacher was set on fire in front of pupils, with the children forced to watch. The attack started with the gunmen entering the 500-pupil school.
The jihadists shot their way into the building and went from classroom to classroom, shooting at random. The military responded swiftly and engaged the militants in an exchange of gunfire. Eye-witnesses described how students cowered under desks as dead bodies were strewn out.
Around 160 children, age 13 and 14, are being held hostage, with four gunmen still inside. A police inspector said they had trapped the terrorists in the principal’s office. Many of the soldiers involved in the rescue operation are trying to save their children.
During the last hour there were seven blasts. Two of them are said to be suicide blasts, a police superintendent said, the rest were grenade blasts.
‘‘We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females,’’ said Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani. Mudassar Abbas, a physics laboratory assistant at the school, said some students were celebrating at a party when the attack began. Akhtar Ali, who works for the United Nations, UN was seen weeping outside.
‘‘My son was in uniform in the morning. He is in a casket now, my son was my dream. My dream has been killed,’’ wailed one parent, Tahir Ali, as he came to the hospital to collect the body of his 14-year-old son, Abdullah. Humayun Khan, one of the mothers of a student, said with tears in her eyes: ‘‘Nobody is telling me about my son’s whereabouts I have checked the hospital and he is not there. I am really losing my heart. God forbid may he not be among the students still under custody of the terrorists.’’ A student who survived the attack said soldiers came to rescue students during a lull in the firing.