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Pakistani School Reopens After Taliban Massacre

  • RFE/RL

Pakistani men carry the body of a student outside a school attacked by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar on December 16.

Pakistani men carry the body of a student outside a school attacked by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar on December 16.

The Pakistani school that was the site of a Taliban massacre last month has reopened amid tight security.

Students and their families returned to the Army Public School in Peshawar on January 12 as children across the country ended an extended winter break.

Taliban assailants raided the school on December 16, killing 142 children and nine staff in one of the deadliest attacks by Islamic militants in Pakistan in years.

Security was tight at the school in Peshawar, part of a country-wide move to boost security at schools in the wake of the attack.

Reuters quoted an unnamed official as saying 2.4-meter-high walls were being built around public schools across Peshawar as part of enhanced security, with hundreds of residents volunteering to protect schools.

According to AFP, at least 20 soldiers were seen at the main entry point of the Army Public School, with an airport-style security gate installed at the front.

The chief of Pakistan's army, General Raheel Sharif, was on hand inside the school to greet and console students.

Sharif addressed the parents in a private meeting. But some parents -- particularly those grieving for their children -- stayed away, saying it was too painful for them to go back to the school.

One father told Reuters, "I couldn't dare to go to the school where my sweet son was ruthlessly killed."

"It feels like my son died once again today," the man said. "When I saw other children going to schools, it reminded me of my son. I went to his room and helplessly sat in front of his school bags and school dress."

Abid Ali Shah, a Peshawar resident, brought his two sons to the school.

Shah's wife, a schoolteacher, was killed in the attack. The couple's youngest son was shot in the head but survived.

"The hollowness in my life is getting greater. I am missing my wife," Shah told AP.

"Those who have done all this to all of us cannot be called humans," said Shah's son, Sitwat.

Teacher Andleeb Aftab, who lost her son, Huzaifa, in the attack, came in a black dress and head scarf.

She walked to the place where she had last seen her son alive. Aftab said she chose to go back to school rather than sit at home and keep mourning.

"I have come here because the other kids are also my kids," she said. "I will complete the dreams of my son, the dreams I had about my son, by teaching other students."

Pakistan lifted a moratorium on the death penalty for terrorism convicts following the attack and has begun executing them, prompting criticism from human rights groups.

It has also passed legislation authorizing military courts to hear terrorism-related cases, sparking fears that the army will use concerns about militant attacks to wrest more powers from the civilian government.

With reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, and