Terrorist targeting school children isn't exactly a new phenomenon in Pakistan. The horrific attacks on Army Public School in 2014 and Bacha Khan University in 2016 have no parallels in our history, but there was another terror incident which occurred on this day in 1994 when three Afghan gunmen hijacked a school bus in Peshawar, taking 73 schoolchildren and staff hostage.
The masked gunmen hijacked a school bus in the provincial capital of K-P (then NWFP) in a bid to demand the Pakistani government money and food to aid war-torn Afghanistan.
Gunmen proceeded with the hostages towards Islamabad, covering 120 miles in the hijacked school bus. In Islamabad, the kidnappers took refuge in the Afghanistan embassy, holding 15 boys and one male teacher hostage. They previously released 55 boys and six female teachers after detaining them for several hours.
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The incident took place in response to Pakistan’s decision to close its border in the previous month due to renewed fighting between factions in Kabul which would have prompted another influx of refugees.
The gunmen claimed they were not part of any feuding faction, however wanted to draw attention towards the plight of ordinary Kabul residents.
The terrorists initially demanded $500,000, but later raised the ransom demand to $5 million. They also demanded “truckloads of food” to be sent to Kabul, where the heavy fighting has resulted in the food shortages.
“We want guarantees that food has reached and been distributed equally among the people of Kabul,” one of the gunmen said, outlining their demands in an interview with a reporter of the British Broadcasting Corporation who was allowed inside the embassy.
“We are not enemies of the children, and when we are sure supplies have gone to Kabul we will release them,” the gunman said.
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Then Pakistan interior minister Nasirullah Babar offered to meet their demands for food to war-shattered Kabul and a safe passage back to Afghanistan but refused a ransom demand.
He said the gunmen had asked for 2,000 truckloads of food for Kabul, where 900 people have been killed and 10,500 injured in bloody battles for power between President Burhanuddin Rabbani and Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar since January 1.
“We said we will give you more, and we will give you medicines also if you want,” Babar said.
“I will ensure your safe passage and take you by helicopter anywhere you want in Afghanistan.”
On late Monday night, thirty Pakistani commandos stormed the Afghan Embassy rescuing all 16 hostages held for more than 36 hours in an assault that lasted 20 seconds.
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Commandos of the Special Services Group began the assault with a stun grenade and then stormed the room where the gunmen were holding six hostages, killing all three in the process, according to Interior Secretary Jamshed Burki.
“They were holding pistols and hand grenades and had to be incapacitated immediately to prevent them using these weapons against hostages.”
Burki and Lieutenant General Ghulam Malik decided to carry out the assault to prevent future kidnappings.“We do not deal with hostage takers," he later said.
(With Input from AFP, Reuters and NYTimes)
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