Peshawar: In the bloodiest terror attack in Pakistan in years, at least 145 people, mostly children, were today killed by heavily-armed Taliban suicide bombers who stormed an army-run school here and took several hostages, a throwback to the 2004 Beslan school siege by Chechen rebels.
A group of 8 Arabic-speaking attackers, wearing para- military Frontier Corps uniforms, entered the Army Public School on Warsak Road around 10.30 AM (local time) and started the massacre of innocents, spraying bullets indiscriminately, going from classroom-to-classroom.
They also took several hostages using them as human shield. The death toll in the attack has reached 160 with a majority of them being students, official sources told PTI. At least 122 others have been injured.
They said that so far six militants have died -- four of them blew themselves up while two were shot dead by security forces. Two militants are still alive.
20 teachers, including the principal, and 34 students are hostages and the operation is continuing, an official of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak's office said.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has claimed responsibility for the attack, one of the worst in recent years.
The Taliban spokesman claimed that its 6 suicide bombers attacked army school, saying it was a revenge for the army's operation against militants in the North Waziristan tribal area close to Peshawar.
"We want them to feel our pain," the spokesman said.
World leaders united in condemning the attack as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif termed it a "national tragedy" and chaired a security meeting in Peshawar where he was briefed about the attack and operation.
Sharif reiterated that military operation 'Zarb-e-azab' to flush out terrorists from the country's tribal belt will continue.
"It's a sheer act of cowardice...the country should unite to combat terrorism," he added.
Army Chief General Raheel Sharif also reached Peshawar to monitor the situation.
In one of the most gruesome attacks in recent years against children anywhere in the world, the militants went from classroom-to-classroom shooting indiscriminately at the shocked students, eyewitnesses told local media.
One rescued student told reporters that the attackers had long beards and they were wearing 'shalwar kamiz'.
He said they were speaking Arabic and looked like foreigners.
In the incident in Beslan in North Ossetia, Russia, at least 32 armed individuals stormed a school and took more than 1,000 hostages, majority of them children. Over 330 people, mostly children, were killed in the assault.