On Tuesday, more than 100 Pakistani schoolchildren were killed by Taliban militants in a devastating attack at an Army-run school in the city of Peshawar. Pakistani officials have said at least 126 people—most children—are dead. An unknown number of schoolchildren still remain trapped inside the school, being held hostage by the Taliban gunmen, according to BBC News.
The deadly attack occurred at Army Public School, a coed institution ran by the Pakistani military. According to The Washington Post, at the time of publication, the siege had been ongoing for at least three hours, and sounds of gunfire and explosions could still be heard as Pakistani police and military members surround the school.
Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa, the chief spokesperson for the Pakistani military, confirmed on Twitter that authorities were successfully freeing hostages, including both schoolchildren and teachers. However, the rescue mission has been dangerous, as the gunmen reportedly planted IEDs around the school to thwart police.
More than three hours after the attack began, Bajwa tweeted that at least six of the Taliban gunmen have been killed. Peshawar police official Mohammad Aijaz Khan has confirmed to the media that all the terrorists have been killed, at least one by a suicide blast.
According to eyewitness accounts told to BBC News, Reuters and local news outlets, the attack began while many students were at an assembly led by a military team. The attackers reportedly entered the assembly while others began opening fire into classrooms. The terrorists reportedly used bombs as well, including at least one suicide blast.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced on Tuesday a three-day mourning period for the country.
He's expected to travel to Peshawar, DawnNews reports. "These are my children and it is my loss," Sharif said in a statement before his departure.
The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad also released this statement on Tuesday:
The United States strongly condemns senseless and inhumane attacks on innocent students and educators, and stands in solidarity with the people of Pakistan, and all who fight the menace of terrorism. Few have suffered more at the hands of terrorists and extremists than the people of Pakistan. That is why it remains essential for the United States and Pakistan to continue to work together to secure peace and stability in the region.
Education activist and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistan native who was shot in the head by Taliban members in 2012, released this message:
I am heartbroken by this senseless and cold blooded act of terror in Peshawar that is unfolding before us. Innocent children in their school have no place in horror such as this. I condemn these atrocious and cowardly acts and stand united with the government and armed forces of Pakistan whose efforts so far to address this horrific event are commendable. I, along with millions of others around the world, mourn these children, my brothers and sisters — but we will never be defeated.
Yousafzai hails from Pakistan's Swat Valley, located in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province along with Peshawar, the region's capital city. The young activist gained attention when blogging about her experiences as a Pakistani girl trying to receive a full education despite the presence of the Taliban, who believe education is off limits to girls and women.Image: screenshot/BBC News