Picture shows Pakistani soldiers take position in an armoured vehicle near the site of an attack by Taliban gunmen on a school in Peshawar on December 16, 2014. (Photo credit AFP/ A MAJEED)
A bloody Taliban raid on an army-run school in northwest Pakistan has ended, police said Tuesday, with all six attackers dead.
The assault on the school in the city of Peshawar killed at least 130 people, most of them students, according to officials.
“The combat operation is over, the security personnel are carrying out clearance operations and hopefully they will clear the building in a while,” police official Abdullah Khan told AFP.
“Dead bodies of six terrorists have been found in the building.”
Senior police official Shafqat Malik confirmed the combat phase of the response was over, while chief army spokesman General Asim Bajwa said on Twitter that the operation was “closing up.”
Bajwa said explosive devices planted in school buildings by the terrorists were slowing clearance efforts.
Special forces soldiers had rescued more than a dozen staff and students, Bajwa said.
The attack began in the morning hours, with about half a dozen gunmen entering the school — and shooting at random, said police officer Javed Khan. Army commandos quickly arrived at the scene and started exchanging fire with the gunmen, he said. Students wearing their green school uniforms could be seen on Pakistani television, fleeing the area.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack as retaliation for a major military offensive in the region, saying terrorists had been ordered to shoot older students.
Peshawar has been the target of frequent terrorist attacks in the past but has seen a relative lull recently.
The Pakistani military launched a widespread military operation in the North Waziristan tribal area in June, vowing that it would go after all terrorist groups that had been operating in the area. With the launch of the operation, security officials and civilians feared a backlash by terrorists targeted by the military but until Tuesday a widespread backlash had failed to materialize.
Tuesday’s attack calls into question whether the terrorists have been crippled by the military or will be able to regroup. This appeared to be the worst attack in Pakistan since the 2008 suicide bombing in the port city of Karachi killed 150 people.
The violence also underscored the vulnerability of Pakistani schools, which was dramatically exposed in the attack two years ago on Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl shot in the head by a Taliban gunman outside her school in Swat Valley for daring to speak up about girls’ rights. She survived, becoming a Nobel Prize laureate and global advocate for girls’ education.
US President Barack Obama condemned the deadly attack Tuesday and promised that America would stand by the country in its struggle against violent extremism.
“By targeting students and teachers in this heinous attack, terrorists have once again shown their depravity,” he said.
“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.”
Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif also condemned the Tuesday’s attack on his Twitter account. “Terrorists have hit at the heart of the nation. They are not only enemies of Pakistan but enemies of humanity,” he wrote.
Raheel also posted that based on intelligence reports the Pakistani army launched more than 10 airstrikes in Khyber region in response to the terror attack.
AP contributed to this report.
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