The news out of Pakistan this morning is grim. Earlier today, Taliban terrorists attacked a school run by the Pakistani military, with the death now exceeding 132, according to Pakistani press reports and certain to grow. Almost 250 are reported wounded, many of them very seriously. All six attackers, all wearing suicide vests, are said to be dead. The vast majority of their victims are children, the young sons and daughters of Pakistani soldiers.
The attack was retaliation for a Pakistani military operations targeting Taliban-controlled areas of the country over the summer. “Our suicide bombers have entered the school, they have instructions not to harm the children, but to target the army personnel,” a Taliban spokesman said by phone. That claim was utterly false; the gunmen went from room to room shooting every student they found, most of them in the head.
“I was sitting in the corridor with 10 of my classmates when we heard firing,” one student told a Pakistani newspaper. “We immediately ran towards the classroom to hide there but the militants chased us down and found us. They were dressed in shalwar kameez (traditional clothing)and the only thing they told us is: ‘read the kalma’.”
The kalma, or kalima, are the six basic precepts of Islam; the student was the only one in his group of 10 to survive.
The dead students are part of the cost that Pakistan, a deeply Islamic country, is paying for finally confronting the extremists of their faith who have seized major parts of the country and threaten its stability. Schools — particularly girls’ schools — have long been a favorite Taliban target, but this is by far the most deadly attack to date.
Judging from what I’m reading so far in the Pakistani press, the brutal, cowardly attack is far more likely to galvanize the often fractious country against the Taliban than to dissuade it from further military action. After all, it’s difficult to envision compromise with those who target helpless children.
UPDATE: In the comments below and elsewhere, I continue to see anti-Islamic bigotry and rants about the supposed refusal of Muslims to condemn and confront the extremists in their faith. Yet in the tragedy above we have a heart-rending example of Muslims doing exactly that and paying for it with the most precious thing that any parent possesses.
And still the blind among us pretend not to see it.