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Malala Yousafzai leads outrage over Taliban slaughter of innocents in Peshawar

Anguish of Nobel winner as Taliban kills 130 at school

By Andrew Woodcock

Education campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has led condemnation of the "atrocious and cowardly" attack on a school in Pakistan which claimed the lives of at least 130 people and left scores injured.

The teenager joined a stream of Western politicians and campaigners in criticising the Pakistani Taliban, which claimed responsibility for opening fire on the Army Public School in the city of Peshawar.

The 17-year-old, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 after speaking out for girls' rights to education, said: "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."

The attack has taken the lives of at least 135 people, the vast majority children.

At least another 114 people have been injured in the attack, deemed a "revenge" strike after Taliban members were killed by the Pakistan military.

A Pakistani military source said that at least 10 attackers wearing police uniforms and suicide vests stormed the army-run school yesterday morning.

The gunmen were reported to have fired at random inside the school before the building was surrounded by Pakistani troops, who exchanged fire with the militants.

The source said: "They burnt a teacher in front of the students in a classroom. They literally set the teacher on fire with gasoline and made the kids watch."

Gunfire and explosions were heard shortly after the militants entered the school at around 10am local time.

A number of teachers and a member of the security forces were among those killed.

The school is sited on the edge of a military cantonment, and some of the pupils are thought to be the children of members of the armed forces.

Taliban spokesman Mohammed Khurasani said six suicide bombers had carried out the attack in revenge for the killing of Taliban members by Pakistani forces.

"We targeted the school because the army targets our families. We want them to feel our pain," said a Taliban spokesman.

Hundreds of Taliban fighters are thought to have died in a recent military offensive in Waziristan and the Khyber region.

One of the wounded students, Abdullah Jamal, was shot in the leg during a first-aid class.

"I saw children falling down who were crying and screaming. I also fell down. I learned later that I have got a bullet. All the children had bullet wounds. All the children were bleeding."

US President Barack Obama said: "The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms today's horrific attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims, their families, and loved ones. 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."

Background

Peshawar is a city of more than three million people situated in the north west of Pakistan, close to the Khyber Pass crossing into Afghanistan.

Over the decades since the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, it has housed many thousands of refugees seeking to escape unrest in its troubled neighbour, and it has been used as a base by Afghan fighters.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province of which Peshawar is the capital, has been a focus of the struggle between the authorities and the Pakistani Taliban, and the city has been the scene of a string of militant murders, abductions and bombings, most notably a 2009 car bomb which killed 137 people.

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