PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Taliban gunmen stormed a military-run school in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday, killing at least 126 people before Pakistani officials declared a military operation to clear the school over.
The overwhelming majority of the victims were students at the school, which has children and teenagers in grades 1-10. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the assault and rushed to Peshawar to show his support for the victims.
As darkness fell on the area, officials said they had cleared the school of militants.
"The operation is completed," said Bilal Ahmad Faizi, the head of the state-run rescue organization, speaking to reporters after leaving the school area.
An intelligence official said nine militants had been killed. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Earlier reports from the chaotic situation said that an estimated six to eight attackers had carried out the violence. It was not immediately clear if the militants were all killed by the soldiers or whether they blew themselves up.
The horrific attack, carried out by a relatively small number of militants from the Tehreek-e-Taliban, a Pakistani militant group trying to overthrow the government, also sent dozens of wounded flooding into local hospitals as terrified parents searched for their children.
The attack began in the morning hours, with about half a dozen gunmen entering the school — and shooting at random, said police officer Javed Khan. Army commandos quickly arrived at the scene and started exchanging fire with the gunmen, he said. Students wearing green school uniforms could be seen fleeing the area on Pakistani television.
Outside the school, two loud booms of unknown origin were heard coming from the scene in the early afternoon, as Pakistani troops battled with the attackers. Armored personnel carriers were deployed around the school grounds, and a Pakistani military helicopter circled overhead.
Details were sketchy in the face of the overwhelming tragedy. Pakistani television showed soldiers surrounding the area and pushing people back. Ambulances streamed from the area to local hospitals.
Associated Press writers Asif Shahzad and Rebecca Santana in Islamabad, and Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.