Pakistani school children killed in ambush
Fri, 27 Feb 2009 13:44:50 GMT
Unidentified assailants have reportedly ambushed a van carrying Shia children to school in the troubled tribal region of northwest Pakistan.
At least four students lost lives and five others sustained injuries as gunmen fired bullets at the school van outside the town of Hangu. The driver was also killed in the attack, Press TV's Muhammad Shafiq, reported.
The report added that seven students appear to have been kidnapped by the attackers.
The school van was traveling from Hangu to Kohat when it came under attack. The bodies and the wounded were shifted to Hangu's Civil Hospital.
Meanwhile, local police station chief Saeed Khan noted that authorities have closed all entry and exit points in the town, launching search operations in the nearby mountains to recover the kidnapped children and capture the attackers.
Hangu is located about 175 km (109 miles) west of Islamabad in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, which borders Afghanistan and is plagued by sectarian, pro-Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked violence.
The incident happened on Friday morning outside the town of Hangu in the troubled North West Frontier Province, state-run television PTV reported.
The driver of the minibus was also killed in the lethal attack.
The death toll is expected to rise as some of the injured children are said to be in critical condition, according to medics.
Hangu is located about 175 kilometers (110 miles) west of the capital Islamabad.
Taliban-linked militants in Parachinar, Hangu towns and the other areas of the Kurram tribal agency have killed 25 to 30 people on a daily basis during the last six months, local media reports say.
Some reports have cited grave human rights abuses against Shias in the northwestern Pakistani city of Parachinar.
Taliban has established its rule in the restive Swat valley and its influence is also rapidly increasing its grip on the major cities and even the so-called settled areas of the country.
Shia sources say that the community makes up one-third of Pakistan's 160 million-strong population. Since the 1980s, thousands of people have been killed in violence-related incidents in Pakistan by extremist groups.
Moderate Pakistani Sunni groups believe that leaving Shias at the mercy of the Taliban is a conspiracy against the country.
Earlier, Tehran cautioned Islamabad over the 'silent massacre' of its Shia community by the Taliban in the country.
"The incidents that have occurred against Pakistan's Shia community are a plot to create conflict between the region's Sunni and Shia population," said Iran's Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani.
"We have warned Islamabad over the incidents and we will pursue the matter," he added.
Two students of Al Asr College were injured in the attack near Moebak Kandao. It was suspected to have been carried out by Taliban. They were sent home after treatment. Another student reached home after escaping from the van.
Abid Hassan, Asif Ali and Said Haleem Shah, all class XI students, and
Shahi Abbas of class VII, were taken by the kidnappers to Orakzai Agency.
Driver Asghar Hussain’s body was brought to Kohat for burial.
According to district police chief Sajjad Khan, a large-scale operation launched to recover the students and arrest the kidnappers ended in failure in the evening.
“We have asked the administration of Orakzai Agency to remain vigilant and help locate the missing students,” he said.
The official said helicopters were also being use to trace the kidnappers in mountains and thick jungle.
The Hangu bazaar was closed after the incident because of fear of sectarian clashes.
People in Bangash area of upper Kohat district took to the streets to vent anger over the incident.
The Bangash community threatened to block the highway if the students were not recovered by 10am on Saturday.
The deadline was given to the district administration, after a meeting held at a police station, by the chairman of the Ittehad Bainal Muslimeen group, Mahatabul Hassan, and a former chief justice of Peshawar High Court, Syed Ibne Ali.
The ambush took place at the scene of a firing incident on Ashura day when mourners who wanted to enter Hangu from Kohat amid curfew were targeted by unknown men.
A jirga formed after last year’s Muharram clashes in the area is yet to start negotiations. The government has asked the jirga to give its verdict by March 4 for restoring peace. (Dawn)
Pakistan Shia children 'attacked'
Taleban gunmen in north-west Pakistan have attacked a school bus, killing the driver and injuring three pupils in a sectarian attack, police say.
Some reports say several children were abducted in the attack in Hangu.
Police say the children in the bus were Shia Muslims. It follows the murder of a Shia lawyer in Hangu on Thursday.
The Taleban are active in Hangu - where there is tension between Shias and Sunnis - and have imposed their version of Sharia law in parts of the area.
Hangu - in North West Frontier Province - has seen especially violent clashes in the past between Shias and Sunnis during the Shia religious ceremony of Ashura.The hardline Sunni Taleban say they consider the Shias heretical.
Letter by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
Shia killings on the rise again
The Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Ms Asma Jahangir, has written to The Friday Times, expressing her concerns of the rising trend of killing Shias in Quetta: “The killing of Shia notables in Quetta has sadly become a frequent occurrence. Some of the killings have been owned by an extremist organisation flying a religious standard. The number of the Shia community members killed there over the recent years has exceeded 300. The government’s failure to track down the culprits has understandably enraged the targeted community, and it has also emboldened the perpetrators to kill with impunity. Besides religious figures, liberal politicians, businessmen and government officials have been targeted”.
Quetta is an unlucky “frontline” city. It has received two sets of refugees from Afghanistan. The Shia Hazaras who have escaped sectarian prejudice in Afghanistan have been coming to the safe haven of Quetta over centuries. They became naturalised in the normal course because of the wonderfully tolerant environment of Balochistan and have arisen on the social ladder as useful citizens. Before 2001, the city was host to a large number of Afghans fleeing Taliban rule; after 2001, it was the Taliban commanders with their Al Qaeda links who were allowed to take shelter here. Sectarian violence has followed.
Quetta has additionally fallen victim to Baloch militant organisations that kill Punjabis and others seen by them as renegades to their cause. Taking advantage of the turmoil in Afghanistan and the ongoing Indo-Pak proxy war, they have taken on a sharp edge they never had before. They kill and kidnap at will and have weapons at their disposal they never had before. But Quetta is not alone in its vulnerability. In the tribal areas, Kurram has suffered Shia killing for the last two years or more. The roads coming down from there to the settled areas of Hangu, Kohat, Dera Ismail Khan and Peshawar in the NWFP have all seen their own share of killings.
The latest news from Hangu is that a van of school children was fired upon by sectarian terrorists, killing one and kidnapping six of the children. Kohat next door is not exempt from this bloodbath, so much so that the killers are now accepted as a part of the local administration. Ms Jahangir’s warning is timely. The wave of Shia-killing is not going to remain confined to Balochistan and the tribal areas. In fact, Dera Ghazi Khan and Bhakkar in Punjab are already feeling the pressure; and it is linked to Pakistan’s war against terrorism. (Daily Times)