UPDATED: New Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi was among those decrying a murderous Taliban attack on a school in Pakistan on Tuesday, calling it “one of the darkest days of humanity.” He was joined by his Peace Prize co-winner Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, while Norwegian leaders also denounced the attacks and grieved for children slaughtered by Islamic extremists.
By midday more than than 100 school children had been massacred in the attack on the school in Peshawar in northwest Pakistan, and the death toll was expected to rise. The attack comes just a week after Satyarthi received his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo along with Malala Yousafzai, who was the target of a Taliban attack herself two years ago.
“My heart bleeds for (the) bereaved families,” Satyarthi wrote in a message sent out via social media. “Children are the first casualty of violence and war. It is time we all came together and put a stop to this violence.”
Yousafzai, best known as Malala, said she was “heartbroken” by what she called the “senseless and cold-blooded act of terror in Peshawar that is unfolding before us.” She referred to the attack as evil and cowardly, and supported the authorities and military in Pakistan as they tried to fight off the Taliban terrorists.
Older students executed
Both he and not least Malala have voiced their commitment to promoting the rights of all children to go school. By midday Oslo time, at least 130 persons were confirmed dead, more than 100 of them students attending the military-run Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, located around 120 kilometers from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.
International news bureaus including Reuters reported that Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers stormed the school Tuesday morning. Witnesses said many children were killed execution-style and it was unclear how many of the hundreds of students attending the school were still trapped inside. Most of the dead were said to be between 12 and 16 years of age. One report from members of the Pakistani community in Oslo, who were closely following the tragedy as it unfolded, claimed that Taliban terrorists picked out older students and executed them in front of the younger students.
CNN reported that it received a call from the Pakistan Taliban, saying that six suicide bombers scaled the walls of the school with orders to kill older students. As many as 400 were said to be in “the custody of the suicide bombers.” The Taliban spokesman claimed the attack was in revenge for Pakistani army operations in regions along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan that have killed hundreds of what the Taliban called “innocent tribesmen.”
Former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who now heads NATO, was among international leaders condemning the Taliban attack on a school. He called the attack “heartbreaking,” adding “to be safe at school is the right of every child.”
Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende, who was among those hailing last week’s Peace Prize winners in Oslo, declared that attacking children is “abominable.” He said the Taliban attack showed that the security situation in Pakistan was becoming “more and more difficult.”
Khalid Mahmood, an Oslo politician for the Norwegian Labour Party, said the attack could be called “Pakistan’s Utøya,” referring to the massacre of young Labour Party summer campers carried out on the island of Utøya by a right-wing extremist in 2011. “This is a terrible and brutal action like Pakistan has never seen before,” Mahmood told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “People here are already calling this Pakistan’s Utøya.”
Mahmood didn’t see any direct ties to last week’s Nobel Peace Prizes, though, or to Malala Yousafzai, who comes from Pakistan and was shot by a Taliban gunman because she encouraged girls to go to school. “Right now there are major military offensives going on against the Taliban, so they (the Taliban) probably aimed to hit the military forces and their families by attacking such a school,” Mahmood said.