Barack Obama condemns Pakistan school siege, death toll hits 141
School children in Karachi pray and mourn for the 141 victims killed during the Taliban siege, December 17, 2014. (AFP/File)
About 141 people, mostly children, were killed Tuesday, and 100 more injured when a Peshawar, Pakistan, school was overrun by Taliban militants.
The attack shocked a country accustomed to news of violence. Some 132 of those killed were between ages 12 and 16. Nine were school staffers, according to CNN.
The intruders, no more than six, wore security uniforms as they scaled walls and entered the Army Public School and Degree College, a military-run school in restive northwestern Pakistan. Many victims were killed or injured in a suicide bombing, although the attackers were each heavily armed and began firing as they entered the school.
Mohammed Khurrassani, spokesman for the Tehreek-e- Taliban Pakistan (TTP), told CNN the attack was revenge action for the deaths of hundreds of tribesmen who have recently been killed by the Pakistani army in adjacent regions.
Reports by the army indicated a single suicide bomber and the evacuation of most of the school's 500 students, most of whom are the children of military personnel.
By the late afternoon, Pakistani troops exchanged gunfire with the militants and contained the fighting within a four-block area of the school complex. Peshawar police said all six militants responsible for the attack were killed.
Pakistani Gen. Asim Bajwai said a cleanup effort was underway, but improvised explosive devices, left by the militants, hampered the attempt.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, after arriving in Peshawar Tuesday, referred to the incident as "a national tragedy."
President Barack Obama condemned the attack in a statement: "By targeting students and teachers in this heinous attack, terrorists have once again shown their depravity. 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."
Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 aboard her school bus, issued a statement Tuesday: "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."