This article written by Declan Walsh originally appeared on guardian.co.uk on September 13, 2011.
Pakistan school bus attack kills teacher and three children
Islamist gunmen target bus near city of Peshawar in latest round of turf war between Taliban and militias
Islamist gunmen opened fire on a school bus in north-western Pakistan on Tuesday morning, killing a teacher, three children and the driver in the latest round of a vicious turf war between insurgents and pro-government militias near the region’s largest city.
The shooting in Matani, on the outskirts of Peshawar, occurred as a bus carrying boys and girls aged between nine and 14 returned from the Khyber Model school.
The children hailed from a village where men have formed a large lashkar, or tribal militia, to repel Taliban incursions into their area.
The attackers first fired a rocket, which missed the bus, then sprayed the vehicle with gunfire, a senior police officer in Peshawar said. Five people died instantly and at least 17 were wounded.
TV footage showed wounded teenage boys, some writhing in pain, crowded into a Peshawar hospital ward where they were awaiting treatment.
Tribesmen in Adezai, a village in Matani district, formed the lashkar in late 2008 in response to Taliban incursions. Armed volunteers carry out foot patrols, stand guard at fortified battlements and support police operations to secure the area, which includes the gun-producing village of Dara Adam Khel.
There have been bloody exchanges of fire with a pro-Taliban Islamist militia that seeks to dominate the area and lashkar leaders say they have come under attack 40 times in three years, resulting in the death of more than 130 people.
One tribal elder, Ijaz Bacha, was killed along with two police officers in a massive car bomb attack on his home last June.
Tuesday’s bloodshed marked the first deliberate attack on children but was not the first violence targeting civilians.
Militants have repeatedly attacked ordinary villagers in an effort to break their support for the lashkar.
One such attack was a suicide bombing on mourners at a funeral last March in which 43 people died and more than 50 were wounded.
Lashkar leaders complain of insufficient official back-up, particularly a lack of ammunition, and have threatened to withdraw their support of the government.
Police officials say they fear the lashkar could spin out of their control if it is armed too heavily.
Separately, the bodies of two men were found in Lakki Marwat at the southern end of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Tuesday. A note said they had been executed for spying on a commander of the Pakistani Taliban.