Taliban gunmen stormed a military-run school in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday, killing 126 people, officials said, in the worst attack to hit the country in years.
The overwhelming majority of the victims were students at the Army Public School, which has children and teenagers in grades 1-10.
The Pakistani military spokesman, Asim Bajwa, said on Twitter that five militants had been killed and that security forces had rescued two children and two staff members.
The attack comes at a time of intense political strife in Pakistan. The opposition politician Imran Khan, who controls Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has been staging protest rallies in major cities. Khan claims that the general elections of 2013 were rigged and is now demanding a judicial investigation.
Since August, his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, has carried out protests in the capital against Mr. Sharif and has demanded his resignation. On Monday, Khan’s party paralysed the eastern city of Lahore by blocking its main roads and protesting outside main government buildings. The party has announced that it will try to shut down the entire country on Thursday. Sharif has responded by inviting Khan to the negotiating table.
While the political parties fight it out on the streets, the attack on Tuesday was a grim reminder that militancy remains the most potent threat to the country. The military says that at least 1,800 militants have been killed in Operation Zarb-e-Azb and that the terrorists remain on the run.