The burned-out buildings dotted the landscape of Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled Swat Valley as veteran Canadian aid worker David Morley drove the bumpy roads with a local aid worker more than three years ago.
“This used to be a boys’ school, that used to be a girls’ school, that used to be a clinic,” Morley recalled his Pakistani colleague telling him.
“What’s he going to be thinking today?”
‘I think it is beyond our comprehension why somebody would target children’ -Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Morley, the head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Canada, did not mince words Tuesday as news emerged of the suicide attack that killed at least 141 people — the vast majority of them children — at a school in Peshawar, the Pakistani city abutting the Khyber Pass leading to Afghanistan.
“This is a crime against humanity and it’s against civilized norms because we want to nurture and care for our children,” Morley said in an interview.
“We want them to learn and educate, and this is heinous act against all of those norms.”
The attack sparked similar condemnation in Canada and abroad. Many viewed it as a new low in the behaviour of Taliban terrorists, who took responsibility for the attack.
Students ranging from Grade 1 through Grade 10 accounted for most of the dead. They were killed along with their seven attackers, all of whom were wearing explosive suicide vests. Another 121 students and three staff members were injured.
Harper offers condolences
Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered his condolences to the families of the victims. It’s hard enough to understand the motives that underlie a terrorist attack, he said, but even more so when the targets are innocent children.
Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird has condemned the attack on the school, which he called cowardly and sinister. (Hasan Jamali/Associated Press)
“It’s hard for any of us, as rational and compassionate people, to understand terrorism — to understand why people would want, in the name of some political cause, to simply terrorize, hurt kill innocent people, whole sections of society,” Harper told a news conference in Quebec City.
“But I think it is beyond our comprehension why somebody would target children. As a father, your heart just breaks when you see that kind of thing.”
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