PESHAWAR, Pakistan — The government in Pakistan's northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has started renaming dozens of state-run schools after the students killed by Taliban militants in a horrific gun attack at a military-run school last December.
"It's an effort to remember sacrifices of those students and courage of their parents and other families," regional education minister Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani said.
The Dec. 16 attack, in which a half-dozen suicide bombers laid siege to the Army Public School in Peshawar, left 143 students and several soldiers dead. More than 200 students were injured in the eight-hour massacre, in which the gunmen shot indiscriminately into crowds and targeted children individually, witnesses said. When Pakistani troops arrived, the terrorists killed themselves by detonating their explosives-laden jackets. It was the deadliest terror attack by the Pakistani Taliban since 2007.
The victims came from homes all over the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Education officials sought to rename schools in the children's native areas, "to remind local people of their sacrifices," Ghani said.
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Some parents, however, have asked for their child's name to go on a school in Peshawar, the regional capital.
The project will begin with 107 schools and will be expanded in coming weeks as officials continue to consult with parents, Ghani said.
"This small effort will remind us and our other generations about this sad incident in the school and ruthless killing of the innocent children there," he said.
The Pakistani Taliban, headed by Maulana Fazlullah, said the attack was the militant group's response to a offensive launched by Pakistani security forces in North Waziristan, a volatile tribal region considered a stronghold of al-Qaeda.
Parents said they welcomed the government's gesture as a recognition of their loss. Many of them have turned to medication and psychiatrists to cope.
"It will not bring my loving brother back to us, but at least the school after his name will keep him and his sacrifice alive," said Ahmad Khan, 12, who lost his brother in the school carnage. His family requested that the brother's name go on a government high school in their native Nowshera district.