Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot by the Taliban, has attacked the “atrocious and cowardly” killing of more than 100 schoolchildren in Pakistan by the Islamist extremists.
She was joined in expressing her disgust at the attack by US President Barack Obama and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and the prime minister of India, Pakistan’s long-term rival, also condemned the Taliban.
At least 126 people died during an attack on the Pakistani by school on Tuesday, while around 122 more are said to have been wounded. And the death toll was expected to rise on Tuesday.
A Taliban spokesman said it launched the attack in response to major Pakistani army operations, saying: “We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females. We want them to feel the pain.”
The country’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif announced three days of national mourning as the attack was still taking place. “War on terror will continue,” Nawaz Sharif told reporters in Peshawar, shortly after his arrival to monitor the army operation against the militants.
“I appeal to the nation to show unity at this critical juncture. No-one should have doubts about our determination to fight terrorism. We will do whatever we can for the relatives of those who have lost children,” he said.
In a statement, Malala – who was shot in the head on a school bus in 2012 by a Taliban gunman in Pakistan – said: “I am heartbroken by this senseless and cold-blooded act of terror in Peshawar that is unfolding before us.”
After campaigning for greater access to education for women, she was the awarded the Nobel peace prize.
She continued: “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 US President Barack Obama pledged continued support for the Pakistan government’s efforts “to combat terrorism and extremism and to promote peace and stability in the region.”
“By targeting students and teachers in this heinous attack, terrorists have once again shown their depravity,” President Obama said in the statement released by the White House.
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the massacre an “act of horror and rank cowardice to attack defenceless children while they learn”.
He said: “no cause can justify such brutality. No grievance can excuse such horror. Getting an education is every child’s right. Going to school should not have to be an act of bravery.”
And they were joined by the Foreign Secretary Phlip Hammond, who said he was “appalled” by the killings.
“I send my deepest sympathy to the victims and their families. Nothing can justify such a horrific attack on children going to school. The UK continues to stand shoulder to shoulder with the government and people of Pakistan in the fight against terrorism and extremism,” he said.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi said: “It is a senseless act of unspeakable brutality that has claimed lives of the most innocent of human beings – young children in their school.”