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Marist Schools have cancelled the Christmas parties

20/12/2014: Pakistan

Br Remigius Fernando, from the Marist Community in Peshawar, has sent us the following account of the tragic incident which took place in Pakistan on 16th December 2014. 

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The Army Public school and College is situated about a kilometer from St. Mary’s high school, where Brothers Sunil, Remy and Farancis stay. It is a school run by the army for the children of military families, but a few children from civilian families also attend this school.

On the 16thof December, 2014, Tuesday, morning, we had just finished our long break and the boys had gone into the classrooms, and were having the 4thlesson of the day.

One of the senior teachers received a call from a friend of his who said that a group of terrorists, armed with heavy weapons, had entered the Army Public School. They were young people.  Gun shots could be heard from inside.  We quickly alerted the teachers, but warned them not to let the children know what was going on.  Army vehicles with armed commandos and military personnel, were seen moving towards the school, and the roads leading to the Warsak road, where the school was situated, were blocked for public traffic.

As the frequency of the gun shot sounds increased, ambulances with loud sirens continued to go towards the school.  We received information that a group of about 10 terrorists, seemingly in army uniforms, had entered the school, and taken some students as hostages, and those who tried to escape were shot dead. 

Soon we started to get telephone calls from the parents of our children.  We informed them that our children were safe, but inside their classrooms.  We decided not to ring any bells for changing of periods, and not to let the children come out for the second, short break.

Meanwhile we saw armoured vehicles, tanks moving along the road in front of us towards the Army school, and helicopters kept flying around.  Louder gunshots could be heard now more frequently. The army had the area around the school cordoned off, to prevent the terrorists from escaping.

The parents of our children started to pour in to the school premises to remove their children.  This was a tense moment for us.  All our workers and the teachers went into action.  We had to keep the parents in one area while the workers ran up and down taking the children out of the classrooms and handing them to the respective parents.  We had to make sure that parents personally took charge of their children.  By now the bigger boys had come to know that there were some terrorist activities in the neighbourhood.

Around 3:00 p.m. full scale military operation started. The operation lasted till about 6:00 p.m. during which we could hear a few very loud blasts.  The terrorists had come with suicide jackets added to their outfits.  Some of them had blown themselves off when they realized they could not escape, and with that killed many of the students.    

The Director General of the Inter Services Public Relations, Gen. Saleem, who gave a press conference in the evening, said that the terrorists had cut a barbed wire fence at the back of the school and entered.  As soon as they entered the school they started shooting indiscriminately.  They had no intention of taking any students hostage.

They incident left 148 dead, and over hundred still in various hospitals.  Among the dead were 9 teachers including the Principal of the school. She was shot and was set on fire by the terrorists. 

By 6:00 p.m. the army had cleared the school of all the terrorists, killing all six or seven of them.  It was later learnt that they had captured some alive. 

This is the second large scale tragedy after the one in a Church last year which has brought fear and helplessness to those who live in Peshawar, Pakistan.

The two Marist Schools have cancelled the Christmas parties for children and will hold the staff get together in a low scale.

St. Mary's High School will donate the money, which was to be spent on celebrations to those affected from this horrendous crime. 

Please keep the people in Peshawar in your prayers asking God to give them courage to carry on their lives without losing hope. 

________________________

Br Remigius Fernando

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