As Pakistan began to bury its children Wednesday, the world reacted to one of the most horrifying terrorist acts in recent years: the Taliban’s methodical assault on a school in Peshawar. The death toll in Tuesday’s attack stands at 141 people, including 132 children, as survivors recounted point-blank-range elimination of one student after another.
The news was splashed across front pages, as both Pakistani and foreign commentators tried to take measure of this latest chapter of violence by Islamic extremists.
Calling the massacre a "black day," Pakistan's Dawn newspaper offered detailed reporting on just what happened inside the school, which included many students from military families. The daily described Pakistan as a country in "deep mourning," and published this dramatic photo essay on its website.
Pakistani daily The Nation, instead, included an editorial that took aim at the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, saying it has contributed “absolutely nothing towards building a narrative against extremism.” The newspaper wrote that “everyone, from the wider population to the civil and military leadership is responsible for the barbarity our children were subjected to.”
Omar Quraishi of Pakistan daily Express Tribune used Twitter to give some chilling perspective on what happened:
There is no Class 9 anymore at Army Public School Peshawar - all the students were killed in the attack - 1 survived - his alarm didnt ring
— omar r quraishi (@omar_quraishi) December 17, 2014
The news dominated newspaper front pages around the world.
The Times of India amply reported details of the attack, noting how many of the children had been systematically shot in the head. In an accompanying article the paper wondered if sectors of the Pakistani army long suspected of ambigious relationships with terrorists might now change their ways. This article said we should read closely the "narrative" that the army will put forth, and see if it would change its discourse on the Taliban. If the Pakistani army decided again to blame "outside countries" for the attack, the daily wrote, that meant more "business as usual."
In China, the government, via the pages of the People's Daily expressed its condolences to the victims and their families. The spokesman of China's Foreign Minister Qin Gang declared that China stands firmly with the international community in the fight against terrorism.
At the same time on China's ever active social media, there was a small wave of panic about what happened in Peshawar. On Weibo, the Chinese Twitter, some users were comparing the Taliban to Islamic minorities in the country’s northwest, and even to Nazis.
-Islam and Terrorism are not the same thing. Terrorism belongs to an extreme minority with certain political demands. The Islamic belief of a person is not the reason that he becomes terrorist. And it is not wise to isolate and demonize Islam.
-So what you mean by that is that Nazis had nothing to do with German people? No, they are closely related.
-Yes, Nazis WERE German people.
-So in this case, the Communist party represents all Chinese.
In Iran, the conservative daily Jomhuri-e Eslami cited agencies to carry a factual report of the "bloody attack," while Jaam-e Jam, the newspaper of Iran's state broadcaster, called a "massacre of children." though its report remained factual. Another very conservative Tehran paper, Kayhan, briefly reported on the "bloody hostage" incident, calling the Taliban terrorists. Next to that it had a report of similar size on the Islamic State recently murdering 150 women in Iraq, perhaps intended to put it "in perspective." The Iranian leadership despises the Taliban, but also have little sympathy for Pakistan and its military, whom Iran intermittently suspects of backing Sunni separatists in southeastern Iran.
The London-based pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat kept its next-day coverage limited to a news report from the Associated Press, with further attention devoted to ISIS and the Iranian nuclear program.
The New York Times lead editorial Wednesday was entitled "The Taliban's Massacre of Innocents in Pakistan," and urged the country's leaders to recalibrate their policy toward the insurgents. "To defeat the extremists, Pakistan will need more than a military strategy. It will need responsible governance and an acknowledgment by top leaders that they cannot contain attacks from one terrorist group while enabling another one.
One commenter on the Times website referred to a quote from French mathematician and theologian Blaise Pascal: "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it with religious conviction."
Radio France Internationale reported that the aim of the Taliban attack on the military school was, above all, "to make the military suffer" for the army's operations in its stronghold of Waziristan — and indeed most of the dead were children of soldiers attending the academy. Pakistan specialist Maryam Abu Zahab told the broadcaster the bombing was a strictly vindictive act, because she said, the killers know that "the Pakistanis have long stopped supporting the Taliban."
Lebanon"s L'Orient le Jour called the attack the "bloodiest killing in Pakistan's history," while its columnist Anthony Samrani asked "how far will the horror race go?" It is, he observed, as if "terrorists from around the world were competing week after week to win the title of the year's most monstruous act."
Milenio newspaper in Mexico citing Notimex, carried a factual report of the attack, though citing a Taliban spokesman's comments that the assailants had been ordered to "shoot older students, not the young ones." Another newspaper, Excelsior, carried pictures of dead and injured children in its report on a "bloodbath at a Pakistani school."
TeleSur, the broadcaster affiliated with Venezuela's socialist regime, reported the incident as an attack, without using words like massacre or terrorism. The next day it "condemned" the attack of sorts, by reporting Nobel laureate Malala Yousefzai's reactions.
Madrid newspaper, El País, cited the analyst Michael Kugelman as saying that the attack opened a "new phase" indicating that the Pakistani Taliban had regrouped and were ready to fight. Pakistan's successful response he said, depended on its ability to destroy their "ideology and funding."
With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.
When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.
And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.
Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan
The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan
According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.
In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.
The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.
Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.
View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA
Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!
The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.
Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.
Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain
Old Belchite, Spain
Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…
That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.
Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.
If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.
Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan
Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.
The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.
Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."
Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.
Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden
The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden
After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).
Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.
Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia
Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia
During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.
Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.
Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy
Poveglia Island, Italy
Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).
During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.
In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.
Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.
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