As Pakistan reels from one of the most harrowing acts of terrorism ever within its borders, a school massacre that left 141 dead, including 132 children, the Taliban culprits have threatened even more violent unless their jihadist “demands are met.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, that nation’s wing of the terrorist group, emailed a statement to multiple media outlets following the attack, threatening further violence if the government did not cave to their demands. The group claims that it “was forced to take this extreme step to target this school where children of army officers and soldiers were studying,” and that it would not shy away from similar actions: “unless demands are met, TTP will be forced to target every institution affiliated with the army or security forces nationwide.”
The Taliban did not stop at merely killing the children during the attack in Peshawar. Witnesses recount that they were forced to play dead if they were to survive, and one group was forced to watch their teacher burned alive. Before embarking on the terrorist attack, the group posed with their weapons before a flag reading “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger.” Taliban spokesman Mohammad Khurasani also sent another message, the Daily Mail reports, warning that “this was just the trailer” to a larger attack.
The Pakistani government, watching public sentiment towards the Taliban turn to pure anger over the attacks, has responded with harsh words and a plan of action that includes reinstating the death penalty in cases such as this one. “The Taliban, these extremists, the terrorists, they are the biggest threat to peace in this region, to peace in Pakistan, to the existence of Pakistan,” said Defense Minister Khawaja Asif, calling for Western nations to join the fight. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced that he would reverse the moratorium on the death penalty and order authorities to immediately find and capture, dead or alive, the orchestrators of the massacre.
The Pakistani government, NPR reports, will also continue its campaigns to vaccinate children, which are of great distress to the Taliban. As the radio network notes, “the Taliban has gunned down at least 60 health workers and policemen who were guarding them” since 2012. Dr. Dure Akram, who works in Pakistan, tells NPR that, because the attack was specified to be on the army and not quality of life improvement programs, he did not expect a significant change to vaccination programs, but that spreading vaccines widely in the nation was extremely difficult because of the Taliban’s capture of territories from the army.