Pakistan in mourning for 132 children killed in Peshawar school massacre

A World At School, December 17, 2014

Pakistan was a country deep in shock today. Candles were lit and vigils held. And parents buried their children in mass funerals.

In a country almost numbed to daily violence and terrorist atrocities, the massacre of 132 students at a school in Peshawar by the Taliban took most Pakistanis to new, raw depths of despair.

Three days of mourning has been declared by President Nawaz Sharif after a mass killing so depraved it was even condemned by the Afghan Taliban as un-Islamic.

Many schools throughout the country have been closed as a mark of the respect for the 141 dead, who included nine teachers and staff. At those schools which stayed open, prayers were said for the victims. Schools in neighbouring India observed a two-minute silence.

Scores of children still lie in hospital beds, being treated for ugly gunshot wounds inflicted by the seven attackers, who either blew themselves up or were killed by soldiers in a nine-hour gun battle.

Education has borne the brunt of many Taliban attacks in recent years, with more than 1000 schools and colleges destroyed in the northwestern region of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. But the massacre yesterday at the Army Public School was so horrific – with gunmen walking from class to class, shooting children as they hid under desks – that it drew worldwide condemnation.

The Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was in retaliation for a military ground offensive against them since June. But residents of Peshawar and the wider region are now worried about the safety of their children at school.

At the Army Public School today, classrooms normally abuzz with the sound of children were silent and eerie. BBC news presenter Mishal Husain visited the school and sent a series of haunting tweets: