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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK
Gunmen attack Pakistan school
Pakistan army troopers stand guard at the main entrance of the Murree Christian School
The school says its guards saved the children's lives
At least six people have been killed in a gun attack on a missionary school for foreign students in Pakistan.

They wanted to hit at the missionary community. What better way than to hit at their kids?

Russell Morton,
Murree principal
Police say four gunmen fought their way into the Murree Christian School complex in the hills near the capital, Islamabad, at about 1115 (0515 GMT), firing indiscriminately.

Four people were wounded in the ensuing gunbattle with security guards. No pupils were among those killed, all of whom were Pakistani guards and employees, the school says.

Correspondents say that because the school has mainly foreign staff and students, the attack appears aimed at Western interests, rather than Pakistan's Christian minority.

Previous attacks on foreign interests in Pakistan have been blamed on Islamic militants angry at Islamabad's support for the US-led war on terror.

Witnesses say the security guards, two of whom died, averted a bloodbath by stopping the gunmen from entering a classroom full of children.

The gunmen escaped into nearby woods and dozens of heavily armed soldiers have been searching for them with the help of sniffer dogs and helicopters.

The school has praised the guards' bravery.

Its website says "all students and expatriate staff are safe and being cared for".


About 150 children, almost all of them foreigners, study at Murree, which is about 70 kilometres (40 miles) north-east of Islamabad.

The school's Australian principal, Russell Morton, said two security guards, a cook and a carpenter were among the dead.

Pakistan policeman
Pakistan attacks:
  • 14 June - bomb outside US Karachi mission kills 11
  • 8 May - Karachi bus blast kills 15
  • 17 March - five killed in Islamabad church grenade blast
  • October 2001 - 18 killed in Punjab church attack

  • They are believed to include Christians and Muslims.

    "This is a disaster for the foreign missionary community," he told Reuters news agency.

    "It is my opinion that this attack was designed to cause trouble for the Pakistan authorities."

    The attack is the third on a Christian target in Pakistan since President Pervez Musharraf joined the US-led campaign against al-Qaeda and the Taleban last autumn.

    A grenade attack on a Protestant church in Islamabad's diplomatic area in March killed five people, including the wife and daughter of a US diplomat.

    Last October, masked gunmen shot dead at least 18 worshippers at a church in the eastern town of Bahawalpur in Punjab Province.

    Militants blamed

    Staff and pupils at the school following the attack
    All pupils are safe, the school says
    Police say no arrests have been made in the Murree attack, and no group has said it carried it out.

    But BBC correspondent Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad says police suspect Islamic militants are to blame.

    Islamic groups are also accused of carrying out two bomb attacks on foreign targets in the southern city of Karachi since March, which killed 26 people.

    The authorities believe most of these attacks have been carried out either by members of al-Qaeda or their supporters in Pakistan, our correspondent says.

    The BBC's Frances Harrison
    "Security had been increased"
    Russell Morton, Murree Christian School
    "Masked men came through the front gate"
    Pakistani Information Minister Nisar Memon
    "Now we're able to track down these terrorists"
    Musharraf's Pakistan

    Democracy challenge

    Militant threat




    See also:

    05 Aug 02 | South Asia
    05 Aug 02 | South Asia
    14 Jun 02 | South Asia
    08 May 02 | South Asia
    28 Mar 02 | South Asia
    28 Oct 01 | South Asia
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