SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association) The Pakistani city of Peshawar has begun burying its dead after a Taliban attack at a school killed at least 132 children and nine staff.
Mourners crowded around coffins bedecked with flowers, while other families waited at hospitals for news.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared three days of mourning and Pakistan’s army struck at militants in the region.
World leaders voiced disgust at the Taliban’s deadliest attack to date, which even its Afghan allies disowned.
According to the army, Tuesday’s attack was carried out by seven Taliban attackers, all wearing bomb vests.
They cut through a wire fence to enter the school from the rear and attacked an auditorium where children were taking an exam.
Gunmen then went from classroom to classroom at the military-run school, shooting pupils and teachers where they found them, survivors say.
The siege at Peshawar’s Army Public School, which teaches boys and girls from both military and civilian backgrounds, lasted eight hours.
A total of 125 people were wounded, according to the army before all seven attackers were killed. Hundreds of people were evacuated.
The Pakistani Taliban sought to justify the attack by saying it was revenge for the army’s ongoing campaign against them. The school was chosen as a target, the militant said, because their families had also suffered heavy losses.
‘I can’t talk anymore’
In line with the Islamic custom, mourners began burying victims as darkness fell.
The bier carrying the shrouded body of one teacher was strewn with flowers as men crowded around it.
At the funeral of one pupil, his father told the Associated Press news agency: “He was only 15 years old and was in the eighth grade.
“I met him at night and I am not able to express right now the conversation we had. We had lunch together. Early in the morning, he woke up before me and went to school around 11:00 (06:00 GMT).
“I was in the court when I received a call about the incident and then rushed towards the hospital… He got a bullet right in his chest and another bullet hit his hand. I am sorry I can’t talk anymore about it.”
Sajid Khan, uncle of 10-year-old pupil Gul Sher, told AFP news agency his nephew had plans to become a doctor but instead, God had placed him in a coffin.
“We cannot take the revenge from the terrorists but we pray to Allah to take the revenge,” he said.
‘Our children’s blood’
Prime Minister Sharif also pledged to avenge a “national tragedy unleashed by savages”.
“We will take revenge for each and every drop of our children’s blood that was spilt today,” he said.
In line with the national mourning, Pakistani embassies worldwide will have their flags lowered to half-mast and books of condolences will be opened.
Pakistani military spokesman Asim Bajwa announced in a tweet that 10 air strikes had been carried out in the Khyber region, along with other action taken, as yet unspecified.
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Mohammad Khurasani said the militants had been “forced” to launch the attack in response to army attacks.
He accused the military of killing the children and womenfolk of Taliban fighters and burning their homes.
Hundreds of Taliban fighters are thought to have died in a recent government offensive in the Khyber area and North Waziristan, regions close to the Afghan border.
In Afghanistan itself, the local Taliban described the school attack as un-Islamic.
The Afghan Taliban are currently stepping up their own attacks in Afghanistan and share roots with the Pakistani Taliban and usually share the same ideology too, the BBC’s Mike Wooldridge reports from Kabul.
But their spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that they were sending their condolences to the families of the children killed in the Peshawar attack and that they shared their sadness.
US President Barack Obama said terrorists had “once again shown their depravity” while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it was “an act of horror and rank cowardice”.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his country’s “deepest condolences”.