CHINGAI, Pakistan — NBC News’ Mushtaq Yusufzai was about a mile away from the Pakistani school — known as a madrassa — when it was attacked by Pakistani forces on Monday for allegedly training militants. An estimated 80 people were killed.
Yusufzai, who is usually based in the region's main city, Peshawar, was in the area to cover a peace deal that expected to be signed on Monday between Bajur tribal leaders and the military. He describes the scene in the village of Chingai, near Khar, the main town in the Bajur tribal district, after the attack and discusses the reputation of the school prior to the attack.
What was the scene like after the air strike by Pakistani troops on the madrassa school training suspected militants?
It was dark and very early in the morning when the blast occurred. And then I heard helicopters over the village of Chingai where the madrassa school is located. People in the village immediately arrived at the scene of the air strike and were trying to recover bodies from the rubble. The school was flattened and completely destroyed.
I saw Faqir Mohammed, an al-Qaida commander in the Bajur tribal district. Usually the Taliban doesn't allow reporters to film things, but Mohammed let me interview him and film the scene near the school.
Prior to this attack, what was the reputation of school? Was it known to be a training ground for militants?
Yes, it was. Mohammed, the al-Qaida leader in the area, was one of the first people in the area to publicly support the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. He tells people that it is their responsibility to support the Taliban and Osama bin Laden because he says we are at war with people who are fighting Islam. He has said it is their responsibility to support mujahedeen and war with the West. The school was known as a strong supporter of the Taliban.
Mohammed’s deputy Maulana Liaquat Ali Hussain — a leader of the madrassa — was killed in the attack.
Mohammed has been accused of providing shelter to militants and even invited bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, to the madrassa.
In his public speeches Mohammed has said it is our moral and religious obligation to support muhajadeen, to provide protection for muhajadeen, and shelter for others who have left their homes to perform jihad.
Mohammed was very emotional after the attack and swore jihad against what he called occupation forces.
And what has been the reaction to the attack?
People have condemned the attack and accused the government of President Musharraf of supporting the killing of innocent people.
People have already planned big demonstrations in Peshawar and around the Bajur region tomorrow to protest the attacks.
NBC News' Mushtaq Yusufzai is based in Peshawar, Pakistan.