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PESHAWAR, Sept 13: Militants attacked a school bus on the Kohat road in the suburbs of the city on Tuesday. Four children and the driver of the bus were killed and 14 children, two woman teachers and two other people were injured.

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack and said it wanted to punish families of the children for organising anti-Taliban militias.

Superintendent of Police (Rural) Abdul Kalam Khan told Dawn the children from Kalakhel village of Khyber Agency were going home from the Khyber Model School at about 1.50pm when they were attacked.

“We had no information about any possibility of such an attack. However, there were reports about security threats and, therefore, police established checkpoints on the roads in the city,” the SP said.

DSP Sahibzada Sajjad said the van was attacked with rocket-launchers, hand-grenades and Kalashnikovs. In about 10 minutes, the assailants vanished from the area which is hardly 500 metres from the tribal region.

He said the militants might have been waiting on a nearby mountain for the bus. Police started an operation in the area but no arrest has been made so far.

The DSP said the children had been targeted because their elders had formed a peace committee.

The children who were killed are Farooq, Shah Zeb, Suleman and Naveed. The driver has been identified as Niaz Mir.

The injured were taken to the Lady Reading Hospital. A hospital spokesman said 21 people had been brought there. Two of them had already expired while one died in the hospital.

The injured students, Arshad of Class 6 and Khan Wali of Class 10, told Dawn that there was a loud bang followed by firing with automatic weapons from two sides of the road. They did not see the attackers. They said about 40 children, including girls, were in the bus.Some elders of the Kalakhel area said militants killed 10 people a few months ago by blowing up two pick-ups in Matni Bazaar after local people had formed an anti-Taliban Lashkar.

They criticised police for their failure to protect motorists even on the main Indus Road and said it would be difficult to send children to schools in this situation of grave insecurity.

A TTP spokesman for the Darra Adamkhel and Khyber Agency chapter of the banned organisation told journalists on phone that the Taliban wanted to kill teachers and grown-up children, not the minor ones. Such attacks, he said, would continue if people did not stop supporting the government. “When we can fight the army, attacking civilians is not a problem for us,” he added.