Pakistan remembers Army Public School massacre

A man looks at a banner displaying pictures of the students who were killed during the APS massacre in Peshawar, Pakistan. (AN photo)
Updated 16 December 2017
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Pakistan remembers Army Public School massacre

PESHAWAR: Sadeel Ahmed thinks he is living a second life because he survived when militants attacked the Army Public School (APC) in Peshawar on Dec. 16, 2014.
He said the trauma he suffered that day still haunts him, especially on the anniversary of the massacre.
Ahmed recounted his memories of that day to Arab News. “Firing started outside the hall while we were taking a chemistry paper,” he said. “At first, we thought it was army training, but when the intensity of the firing increased, the teachers told us to lock the doors from the inside. But some of the students went outside and were shot dead instantly.”
The 22-year old student said there were 25 pupils inside the hall, but only two of them survived.
“When two gunmen wearing security forces’ attire entered our hall, we thought they were our own army or FC (Frontier Corps) soldiers, but suddenly they started shooting to kill all of us,” he said.
The incident prompted the civil and military leadership of the country to unite and launch a national action plan against terrorism.
However, Fazal Khan, head of the Shuhada-e-APS (Martyrs of APS) Forum, who lost his son Sahibzada Umar in the massacre, told Arab News that parents of the students are not satisfied with the steps taken by the government so far.
After the incident, Khan said, the government should have taken concrete steps to stop terrorism, but cites this year’s attack on the Agriculture Training Institute (ATI) in Peshawar as evidence that it has failed to do so.
“From the day (of the massacre), we have been demanding that an independent judicial commission probe this incident and bring all those responsible for the security lapse to justice, because there was already a threat alert prior to the attack. And this is the army’s own school,” he said. “Questions will continue until a judicial inquiry is conducted and made public.”
The Shuhada-e-APS Forum held a ceremony at Peshawar’s Archives Library on Saturday, inaugurating a monument in memory of the victims of the 2014 attack.
Earlier in the morning, a ceremony was held at the school, attended by victims’ parents, along with Corps Commander Peshawar, Lt. Gen. Nazeer Ahmed Butt.
Civil activists also staged rallies, condemning the 2014 attack.
Malik Tahir Awan, whose son Malik Usama Tahir was killed in the attack, told reporters at the Archives Library that Dec. 16 should be declared a public holiday so that future generations learn about the day that united all of Pakistan against terrorism.
Pakistan’s civil and military leadership drafted a National Action Plan in January 2015 to supplement the country’s anti-terrorism offensive and crackdown on terror networks in northwestern Pakistan.
The country now claims to have largely abolished terrorist bases on its soil and has launched intelligence-based operations in urban centers — as part of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad — to hunt down terrorist sympathizers and financiers.
However, given the porous 2,430-km border with restive Afghanistan, preventing future atrocities seems a daunting task.


Thai boys rescued from cave mourn diver who died

Updated 15 July 2018
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Thai boys rescued from cave mourn diver who died

  • The health ministry said the overall condition for the players and coach was normal
  • Saman was widely hailed as a hero but the boys, aged 11 to 16, were only told about his death on Saturday

CHIANG RAI, Thailand: The 12 boys and their coach rescued from a Thai cave mourned the death of an ex-Navy SEAL who died while taking part in the mission, the health ministry said Sunday.
The “Wild Boars” football team are recovering in hospital following 18 days spent inside the Tham Luang cave after entering on June 23 and getting trapped by monsoon floodwaters.
Doctors say they are in good health following a successful three-day operation which ended July 10 when teams of Thai Navy SEALs and international cave diving experts hauled the last five members of the team to safety.
But the lead-up to the final phase of the mission was met with tragedy when volunteer and former Navy SEAL diver Saman Kunan died on July 6 while installing oxygen tanks along the twisting passageways of the cave.
Saman was widely hailed as a hero but the boys, aged 11 to 16, were only told about his death on Saturday after a medical team said they were strong enough mentally to handle the news, though many wept after hearing it.
“All cried and expressed their condolences by writing messages on a drawing of Lt. Commander Saman and observed one minute of silence for him,” Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk, permanent secretary at the health ministry, said in the statement.
Photos released show the youngsters crowded around a sketch of Saman scrawling messages on it and bowing their heads in commemoration.
“They also thanked him and promised to be good boys,” the statement said.
Tributes from Thailand and around the world have poured in for Saman, a triathlete and diver who retired from the military in 2006 and worked at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport before volunteering to help with the rescue in northern Thailand.
Specialists who took part in the risky mission to bring the Wild Boars home have expressed shock and surprise that they were able to pull it off, with some fearing that there could have been more casualties.
The unprecedented and daring final push to bring the boys out saw them sedated and carried through waterlogged and partially dry corridors with the help of military stretchers and nearly 100 divers.
Health officials have conveyed a largely positive picture of the boys’ recovery. All are expected to leave hospital on Thursday.
The health ministry said the overall condition for the players and coach was normal, though many are still on a course of antibiotics.
Despite the positive assessments so far experts have said they would all need to be monitored closely for signs of psychological distress that could take months to manifest.
They spent nine days in the dark, dank cave before being located by two British divers.
The boys — and their parents — have been advised to spend time with friends and family and not to give media interviews as that could trigger post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
But the interest in their story is unlikely to evaporate overnight, as Hollywood producers are already jockeying to make a film version of the saga.