Pakistani Taliban gunmen opened fire in a public school on Tuesday in the city of Peshawar, killing over 130 schoolchildren, and making it the deadliest terrorist attack in Pakistan’s history.
The attack is the latest in a series of hundreds school attacks that have taken place in Pakistan since 2009. Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who recently became history’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate, came to prominence after being shot by Taliban gunmen while going to school. After last week’s Nobel ceremony, Taliban leaders called her an “enemy of Islam” and promised to keep attacking Pakistan’s education system.
Reza Jan, Pakistan team lead for the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project, explained that this attack diverges from the previous pattern of Taliban raids on empty schools. Jan told The Daily Caller News Foundation Pakistani Taliban in the past tended to “attack the facility itself, rather than making an attempt to rack up casualties.”
The targeted school was administered by Pakistan’s army. Since June, the military has run an aggressive campaign, called Operation Zarb-e-Azb (“Sharp Strike”) to drive the Taliban out of the country’s mountainous northwest.
Peshawar, at the heart of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, is a center of counterterrorist operations. As Jan explained, “plenty of officers’ and soldiers’ children go to these schools. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the soldiers posted to the Tribal Areas had kids in this school.”
In a press statement, Taliban spokesman Muhammad Khorasani said the attack was “just the trailer” of a larger effort against the military, to ensure that “their families should mourn as ours are mourning.”
Pakistan’s Taliban has also undergone the humiliation of division in recent months, with some members pledging their allegiance to the Islamic State terror group, and others forming independent splinter groups.
All Islamic schools of law and ethics prohibit the killing of children in wartime, with numerous traditions confirming that Muhammad “forbade the killing of women and children.”
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