CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 July 2019

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Taliban promises more attacks on schools

CHARSADDA (Agencies): “I was so afraid. My country is not safe, so how will I feel safe?” a student, Khyam Mashal, was quoted by CNN as saying following the January 20 attack by four suspected Taliban gunmen on Bacha Khan University Charsadda, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in the northwest of the Pakistan.

The attack saw 145 people killed; 132 of them children. Media reported that there were at least 3,000 staff and students at the university during the time of the attack.

A senior police official told media in Charsadda that the gunmen were between the ages of 18 and 20, and armed with automatic assault weapons.

Agence France Presse reported that the Taliban has promised to attack more schools and universities in the future, saying that they are a breeding ground of anti-Muslim sentiment.

It said that from now on, instead of attacking professional soldiers, it would target the fields of corruption that breed them and their anti-Muslim ideas.

Father Emmanuel Yousuf, the director of the National Justice and Peace Commission, condemned the attack, calling it despicable.

He said, “The Catholic Church in Pakistan expresses full solidarity with the victims and prays that peace will prevail in the country.”

A statement from the Justice and Peace Commission quoted him as saying, “Our army is already engaged in a major operation against terrorism in Wazirsitan and other parts of the country. We can only hope that terrorists are dealt with an iron hand in order to restore a lasting peace in the country.”

Bishop Humphrey Peters, from the Church of Pakistan in Peshawar, said, “We stand in solidarity with the families of the students and faculty members killed in the attack.”

Muhammad Ikram, the director of the university crisis management department, explained that the gunmen targeted the Arts and Humanities building and the main boys’ hostel.

“Terrorists broke doors of hostel rooms and shot and slaughtered many students,” he explained.

Another student, Kamil Khan, told the BBC on January 20, “The attackers were equipped with hand grenades and AK47-style rifles. They were killing everyone. It was a horrible and wild attack.”

He added, “We are ruined by this aggression and the situation of the war. I would like to go to a foreign country, because our life is like life in hell now. I just want to live in a peaceful country.”

Bilal Zaidi, a spokesperson from the Punjab emergency service, said more than 100 students and faculty members were safely rescued from the university.

One businessperson, Raheem Shah, from nearby Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was quoted by CNN as saying, “People are now worried to send their children to schools and colleges unless they can be provided with foolproof security.”

The BBC reported on January 21 that candlelight vigils were held for the victims in the south-western city of Quetta and protests were staged in Karachi as outrage spread through the country.

This is the second major terrorist attack on an educational institution since 16 December 2013, when the Army Public School in Peshawar was targeted by the Taliban, killing 150 people, mostly young students.

 

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