December 16, 2014 11:37 am
Updated: December 16, 2014 5:23 pm

In wake of attacks, Canada offers condolences to families in Australia, Pakistan

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WATCH: Prime Minister Harper says it is beyond comprehension as to why someone would target children in a politically motivated attack.

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper is offering his condolences to the families of the victims and others impacted by the deadly attacks in Australia and Pakistan.

Harper says it’s hard enough to understand the motives that underlie a terrorist attack – but even more so when the targets of such an attack are innocent children.

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At least 141 people, most of them children, were killed today at a school in the city of Peshawar, near the border with Afghanistan, after it was targeted by a group of Taliban militants wearing explosive vests.

Most of the victims of the siege were students ranging from Grade 1 through Grade 10. Another 121 students and three staff members were injured. Seven attackers, all wearing explosives vests, died in the assault.

The prime minister says it’s especially heartbreaking to see such tragedy through the eyes of a father.

Harper also acknowledged the attack Monday in Australia, where three people – including the lone gunman, a self-styled cleric with jihadist sympathies – died after a 16-hour hostage-taking at a cafe in Sydney.

“We work around the world with our allies and our friends in the international community to identify terrorist threats, to respond to them, to prevent them,” he said.

“We will continue to be in contact with authorities in these various countries that have been recently affected to see what they have learned from their recent experiences and how we can use that to do more to prevent these kinds of instances here.”

Harper appeared emotional when he described the circumstances of the attack in Pakistan.

“It’s hard for any of us, as rational and compassionate people, to understand terrorism – to understand why people would want, in the name of some political cause, to simply terrorize, hurt kill innocent people, whole sections of society,” he said.

“But I think it is beyond our comprehension why somebody would target children. As a father, your heart just breaks when you see that kind of thing.”

Earlier today, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird also offered his condemnation of the attack, which took place at a military-run school.

In a statement, he called the act cowardly, saying there’s nothing more sinister than killing children at school.

He noted that the Taliban tried and failed to kill recent Nobel Peace price winner Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by gunmen two years ago while on her way home from school in Pakistan.

“Canada unequivocally condemns this heinous act,” Baird’s statement said.

“There is no more cowardly act than attacking innocent children, and nothing more sinister than brutally murdering them while at school.”

He urged the people of Pakistan to seek solace and inspiration from Malala’s example.

“In the moments that follow such harrowing tragedy, we hope that the resolve and the dignity of innocent Pakistani people will see more children like Malala Yousafzai emerge to carry the torch forward for more education, free from violence or intimidation. Canada will stand by them, and support them, in the face of this ongoing terrorist threat.”

© 2014 The Canadian Press

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