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Pakistani-Americans React To Deadly Taliban Attack On School

PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Pakistani-Americans came together Tuesday to show support for the victims of one of the worst attacks in Pakistan's history.

Taliban gunmen stormed a military-run school in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday, killing dozens of people before Pakistani officials declared a military operation to clear the school over.

Asim Bajwa, a spokesman for the Pakistani military, said 141 people were killed -- 132 of the dead are children and another nine are staff members. An additional 121 students and three staff members were wounded.

Aizaz Khan, 14, survived the attack.

"We were doing our school work. Suddenly we heard firing and the teacher told us not to be afraid," Khan said.

Pakistani-Americans React To Deadly Taliban Attack On School

But the slaughter went on, with the gunman showing no mercy for the kids cowering under the desk. One terrorist was heard simply saying, "Kill them."

Bajwa said seven attackers, all wearing explosive vests, all died in the assault. It was not immediately clear if the militants were all killed by soldiers or whether they blew themselves up, he said.

Troops also disabled bombs the Taliban planted at the school, CBS2's Dick Brennan reported.

Bajwa described an assault that seemed designed purely to terrorize the children rather than take anyone hostage to further the militant group's aims.

"Their sole purpose, it seems, was to kill those innocent kids. That's what they did,'' he said.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it's revenge for Pakistani forces targeting Taliban families, CBS2's Alphonso Van Marsh reported.

Following the attack, devastated family members awaited news, and carefully reviewed lists of the wounded. Hospitals urgently appealed for blood.

Local Pakistani communities also felt the pain in their homeland as they watched the violence unfold.

"I am very upset, I am very stressed out," Farah Khan, of Jersey City, told CBS2's Christine Sloan. "When I woke up this morning I heard the news, and I was crying. This is like very brutal."

"I'm feeling very sorry for the families," Khan added. "I'm speechless, I don't know what to say."

"I have no words," said Shazia Tabbassan, of Jersey City.

"Even if you have dispute with the government, you kill children? It's unbelievable," said Imam Kamal Elsayezh.

There is anger and much sadness in Paterson, which has a large Pakistani population.

"It's very horrific to see innocent lives being taken for political reasons," said Emad Hamdeh, a youth coordinator at the Islamic Cultural Center of Passaic County.

In the coming days, Hamdeh said he will be sitting down with young people who want to know why this attack happened.

"There's no explanation to them, there's no way I can explain to these people logically why these things are happening, but I would tell them to be strong, have faith," Hamdeh said, adding that he will be counseling youth about controlling anger as they react to this violence.

"What needs to be done is to not let our anger lead us to injustice because this is exactly what the Taliban did," Hamdeh said. "They had this anger, they're upset, they feel wronged and it leads them to do something extreme. I think our anger needs to be channeled in the right directions."

Pakistani-Americans in several other local areas were in mourning Tuesday – including Jackson Heights, Queens.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday condemned the "horrific attack'' as U.S. officials offered assistance in responding to the terrorist shooting.

"By targeting students and teachers in this heinous attack, terrorists have once again shown their depravity,'' Obama said in a brief written statement. "We stand with the people of Pakistan, and reiterate the commitment of the United States to support the government of Pakistan in its efforts to combat terrorism and extremism and to promote peace and stability in the region.''

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said U.S. officials have been in touch through a variety of channels to offer help, while declining to offer specifics.

"The depraved decision that one has to make to storm a school with innocent children and open fire on them, I think is a testament to how cold blooded these extremists are,'' Earnest told reporters at the White House. "Many of these extremists like to characterize their struggle as a struggle of Muslims against the Western world. But that clearly is not true if the largest of number of victims that we're seeing are actually Muslims. And that makes the situation all the more heartbreaking and all the more tragic.''

Secretary of State John Kerry called the images "absolutely gut wrenching."

"Young children carried away in ambulances and a teacher burned alive in front of the students. A house of learning turned into a house of unspeakable horror," Kerry said.

The military has been battling the Pakistani Taliban for years. Novel Prize winner, 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai, survived a Taliban assassination attempt two years ago.

"We stand with all those families and all those children who are injured right now and who are suffering through this big trauma," she said in a statement.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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