Taliban shelling kills 14 civilians in Darra
* Eyewitness says mortar landed on school minutes after classes ended
PESHAWAR: Fourteen civilians, including 11 schoolchildren, and a soldier were killed in a mortar attack by the Taliban in Darra Adam Khel, an official statement said on Monday.
The incident marks the largest number of civilian casualties in a single attack by the Taliban. According to an official statement, the Taliban were targeting security forces’ checkposts in nearby areas when the mortars hit the school.
“The schoolchildren killed were less than 15 years old. They died when two mortars hit a Girls Primary School near Qasimkhel village on main Indus Highway. Fifteen people were also wounded in the attack,” local resident Faridullah Amin told Daily Times from Darra, 45 kilometres south of Peshawar.
Timed attack: Local residents said the Taliban had been firing mortars at the forces’ positions since midday. They said at 2pm, one mortar landed in the school, mere minutes after the children had finished their classes. “As the first mortar landed in the school, many students rushed outside to see what had happened. At that time, a second mortar landed in the school, killing most of them,” Faridullah added.
“The school ground was red with the children’s blood and parents found it hard to find the remains of their kids,” said an eyewitness. “Loud screams echoed the area when the news of children killed in the mortar fire spread,” he added.
Protest: Following the attack, an angry mob of around 200 people protested the killings by blocking a highway linking the town with Peshawar. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the shelling so far. Security forces have also denied any involvement. “No military operation is currently underway in the area,” a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
However, the official military statement stated: “At least 13 civilians were killed when Taliban fired mortar shell from Mirwali direction.” It added that a soldier had also been killed in the attack.