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Winnipeg's Pakistani community holds vigil for victims of attack at a Pakistani school

Students and members of Winnipeg’s Pakistani community held a vigil on the steps of the Manitoba legislature Sunday to honour the victims of Friday’s deadly attack at a school in Pakistan.

12 killed, 35 were injured Friday when militants stormed research complex in northwest Pakistan

Students and members of Winnipeg's Pakistani community held a vigil Sunday to honour those killed in a deadly attack at a school in Pakistan Friday. (CBC)

Students and members of Winnipeg's Pakistani community held a vigil on the steps of the Manitoba legislature Sunday to honour the victims of Friday's deadly attack at a school in Pakistan.

Twelve people were killed and another 35 were injured when militants stormed a provincial government complex for agricultural research in northwest Pakistan Friday.

Six of the dead were students.

"These terrorists are cowards targeting schools," said Ashas Irfan, president of the University of Manitoba's Pakistani Student Association, which helped to organize Sunday's vigil. "We wanted to gather here to deliver out a strong message across the world that no matter where you come from, or what religion you follow, we all stand united against terrorism and terrorists. 
Masroor Khan says the world needs to stand with Pakistan following Friday's attack. (CBC)

"These terrorists think they're doing it for a good cause but we all know what their motives are behind all of this — they're disrupting the image of my country and the peace of my country."

Pakistani police say three attackers clad in women's burqas reached the school's gate in a rickshaw and opened fire to clear their way to the building.

Taliban militant group, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, has claimed responsibility saying the place they attacked was housing a secret intelligence office, something that Pakistani officials have refuted.

A comparatively small number of students and others were present in the typically crowded complex at the time of the attack because Friday was a holiday — the day when Muslims celebrate the birthday of the prophet Muhammad. T

The attack was third major one on educational institutions in the country's northwest in recent years. In 2014, militants attacked an army-run school in Peshawar killing more than 150 people, mostly school children. In the adjacent town of Charsadda in 2016, militants attacked Bacha Khan University, named after a secular leader, killing more than 20 students.

'We need the world to stand with us'

Irfan, who has family members living in Pakistan, says Friday's attack and the previous ones like it have left Pakistanis living in a state of near constant fear.

"They're really worried about their children," he said. "Because their children go to school as well, so what would happen if something happened to their children?

"After this incident it would be very difficult to go about their daily things."

The attack came over a week after a suicide bomber killed top police official Mohammad Ashraf Noor and his guard in the provincial capital. Elsewhere in the country Friday, a young boy was killed and another wounded when a bomb exploded near the Christian Eisa colony in the border town of Chaman in southwestern Baluchistan province.

Masroor Khan, founder and past president of the University of Manitoba's Pakistani Student Association, told CBC News the years of violence is taking a terrible toll on the Pakistani people. 
Ashas Irfan has family living in Pakistan and says Friday's attack and others like it at schools have left his family members scared to send their children to school. (CBC)

"We need the world to realize how much Pakistan has suffered economically, socially, and the effect this has had on people's mental health," he said at the vigil. "The purpose of this vigil is to show solidarity with the victims and the loved ones of the people who were killed in that attack.

"But also to tell the world that also Pakistan is not a terrorist state, in fact Pakistan is a state that is affected by terrorism. Pakistan has lost tens of thousands of lives — we need the world to stand with us."

With files from the Associated Press