|Pakistani rescue workers take students injured in the shootout to hospital. Photograph: Mohammad Sajjad/AP|
At least 126 people, more than 100 of them children, have been killed in a Pakistan Taliban attack at an army school in Peshawar, according to provincial officials.
Many children escaped but some are still being held hostage. Hours after the initial assault, reporters at the scene said they could still hear firing and explosions.
Pakistan helicopter gunships hovered above the school but were unable to open fire because children were still being held.
Six or more attackers, dressed in army uniform, mounted the assault on the school for the children of army personnel shortly after 11am. Hundreds were in the school at the time.
The attackers, some of them wearing suicide vests, managed to get into the school from the roof of a van parked next to a wall that abuts a graveyard, according to local police. They began firing at random. Another blew himself up as security guards approached.
A student who was in the school at the time of the attack told local media: “The gunmen entered class by class and shot some kids one by one.”
Fighting continued in the school more than four hours after the attack began. Police were struggling to hold back distraught parents trying to break past a cordon and get to the school when the three loud explosions went off after 3.30pm local time.
The Pakistan Taliban, Tehreek-e-Taliban, claimed responsibility, saying it was in revenge for a ferocious army offensive in the tribal areas since June.
“We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females,” said a Taliban spokesman, Muhammad Umar Khorasani. “We want them to feel the pain.”
Before leaving the capital Islamabad for Peshawar, Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif described the massacre as a “a national tragedy”.