Pakistan mourns more than 140 killed in Taliban school attack

Prayer vigils were held across the nation and in other schools, students spoke of their shock at the carnage in Peshawar, where seven Taliban gunmen killed 132 children and 10 teachers.

People carry the coffin of a male student who was killed in Tuesday's attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. Fayaz Aziz / Reuters
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PESHAWAR // Pakistanis mourned as mass funerals got underway Wednesday for 142 people, most of them children, killed the day before in a massacre by the Taliban at a military-run school in the country’s troubled north-west.

Prayer vigils were held across the nation and in other schools, students spoke of their shock at the carnage in the city of Peshawar, where seven Taliban gunmen, explosives strapped to their bodies, scaled a wall to get into the Army Public School and College in the early hours on Tuesday.

Students were shot and some of the female teachers were burnt alive. The attack was the deadliest slaughter of innocents in the country and horrified a nation already weary of unending assaults. Army commandos fought the Taliban in a day-long battle until the school was cleared and the attackers dead.

The government declared a three-day mourning period, starting Wednesday.

Overnight, the body of the school principal, Tahira Qazi, was found among the debris. Her death raised further the earlier reported death toll of 141.

Some of the funerals were held overnight, but most of the 132 children and 10 school staff members killed in the attack were to be buried Wednesday. Another 121 students and three staff members were wounded.

“They finished in minutes what I had lived my whole life for, my son,” said labourer Akhtar Hussain, tears streaming down his face as he buried his 14-year-old, Fahad. He said he had worked for years in Dubai to earn a livelihood for his children.

“That innocent one is now gone in the grave, and I can’t wait to join him, I can’t live anymore,” he wailed, banging his fists against his head.

The Taliban said the attack was revenge for a military offensive against their safe havens in the north-west, along the border with Afghanistan, which began in June.

Analysts said the school siege showed that even diminished, the militant group still could inflict horrific carnage.

The attack drew swift condemnation from around the world. President Barack Obama said the “terrorists have once again showed their depravity”.

Pakistan’s teenage Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai — herself a survivor of a Taliban shooting — said she was “heart-broken” by the bloodshed.

Even Taliban militants in neighbouring Afghanistan decried the killing spree, calling it un-Islamic.

Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, pledged to step up the campaign that — along with US drone strikes — has targeted the militants.

“We will take account of each and every drop of our children’s blood,” said Mr Sharif, who rushed to Peshawar shortly after the attack to offer support for the victims.

* Associated Press