The Pakistani branch of the Taliban has attempted to justify its attack on a school on Tuesday in the city of Peshawar that left 132 children and nine staff members dead, calling it revenge for the army's offensive against the group. The attack has been condemned by world leaders, including the government of Iran as well as by the Afghan branch of the Taliban.
BBC News reported that Pakistani Taliban (TTP) leader Mullah Fazlullah is believed to be currently hiding in Afghanistan, even as the group claimed sole responsibility for the attack and said it did not coordinate with the Afghanistan branch.
A TTP spokesman apparently said that the gunmen, all seven of whom were killed by the Pakistani army, had targeted older pupils rather than "small children." The Islamic militants attempted to justify the attack by characterizing it as revenge for the Pakistan army's numerous operations against them, noting that their families had also suffered heavy losses.
CNN reported that in a separate email, the group accused the students at the Army Public School and Degree College of "following the path of their fathers and brothers to take part in the fight against the tribesmen" nationwide.
The atrocious attack has been condemned worldwide, and even the Afghan Taliban said that the slaughter of children goes against the Islamic faith.
"The intentional killing of innocent people, children and women is against the basics of Islam and this criteria has to be considered by every Islamic party and government," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement, according to Reuters.
The government of Iran also insisted that the attack stands in direct contrast to Islamic teachings.
"This is a totally un-Islamic and inhumane act. Terrorism, extremism and endangering the lives of innocent people, in any form and with any objective, is condemned," Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said on Tuesday.
Pakistani officials said that the attack on the school was intended to kill as many people as possible, rather than take captives.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif revealed that the government had attempted to negotiate with the TTP, but the talks were not successful.
"We tried dialogue with these militants, we reopened the door to talks," Sharif said. "It was unsuccessful ... there was no other option than to engage in an operation against these people."
The Prime Minister announced that he will be lifting a moratorium on the death penalty in terror cases in the wake of the school shooting.
Seventeen-year-old Noble Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who herself was shot by the Taliban in 2011 but survived, has said that she is heartbroken by the news.
"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," the human rights' activist said.
"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."
The U.S. has also spoken out strongly against the attack, with President Barack Obama stating:
"By targeting students and teachers in this heinous attack, terrorists have once again shown their depravity. We stand with the people of Pakistan and reiterate the commitment of the United States to support the government of Pakistan in its efforts to combat terrorism and extremism and to promote peace and stability in the region."
Secretary of State John Kerry called the incident a "brazen murder," and told reporters that "a house of learning had been turned into a house of unspeakable horror."
Kerry added that the attack "angers and shakes all people of conscience."