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A Taliban attack on a Pakistani high school Tuesday left at least 126 people dead, according to Bahramand Khan, director of information for the regional Chief Minister’s Secretariat. Of the 126, most of those killed were children.

A number of people were also injured in the attack, which included the taking of hundreds of students as hostages in what officials are calling the bloodiest insurgent attack in the country in years.

A hospital in the area reported the dead and wounded were between 10 and 20-years-old. It’s unclear how many people are still in the building that houses about 1,000 students in grades 1 through 10.

According to Reuters:

Troops surrounded the building and an operation was underway to rescue children still trapped inside, the army said.

Hours into the siege, three explosions were heard inside the military-run high school, and a Reuters journalist at the scene said he heard heavy gunfire.

Outside, as helicopters rumbled overhead, police struggled to hold back distraught parents who were trying to break past a security cordon and get into the school.

The Taliban movement claimed responsibility for the attack almost immediately, giving their justification for targeting a school.

“We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females,” said Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani. “We want them to feel the pain.”

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who won a Nobel Peace Prize for her dedication to promoting education even after she was targeted in a 2012 attack for just that, spoke out about the tragedy Tuesday:

“I am heartbroken by this senseless and cold blooded act of terror in Peshawar that is unfolding before us. Innocent children in their school have no place in horror such as this. I condemn these atrocious and cowardly acts and stand united with the government and armed forces of Pakistan whose efforts so far to address this horrific event are commendable. I, along with millions of others around the world, mourn these children, my brothers and sisters – but we will never be defeated.”

We’ll keep you updated with the latest from Pakistan.

SOURCE: Reuters | VIDEO SOURCE: News Inc.

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