New Delhi: The debate about gun control has erupted once again in the United States after 19 children and two teachers were shot dead Tuesday at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
The US tops the list in terms of the frequency of such attacks. However, there have been horrific school shootings in other parts of the world too.
ThePrint takes a look at school massacres worldwide, and provides a timeline for some of the deadliest in the US.
Also read: Texas school shooting leaves 19 children, 2 adults dead, several critical
The 2000s: Beslan, Dhemaji and Sencholai
On 1 September, 2004, in the small North Ossetian town of Beslan in Russia, 31 armed assailants stormed a local school and held more than 1,100 people hostage. It was the first day of the school year and many relatives accompanied the 700 children to school that day. The ensuing siege to release the hostages lasted for more than 2 days and ended up costing the lives of 333 individuals, including 186 children.
India witnessed an attack on a school in Dhemaji, a small district in Assam on 15 August, 2004. Ten school children and three adults were killed in a bomb blast while participating in a parade to celebrate Independence Day at the Dhemaji College ground. The attack was carried out by the ULFA (United Liberated Front of Asom) using remote-controlled explosives.
On 14 August 2006, four Sri Lankan air force jets dropped sixteen bombs over the Sencholai children’s home for orphans at Vanni, killing 53 school girls and 3 teachers. The Sri Lankan government initially denied the bombing. It later claimed that the orphanage was a training camp of the militant group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the deceased children were terrorists.
The 2010s: Peshawar and Sandy Hook
On 16 December, 2014, seven heavily armed Taliban militants opened fire on Peshawar’s Army Public School in one its deadliest attacks, killing 141 people out of which 132 were schoolchildren. In an interview to the BBC, Shahrukh Khan, one of the students present during the attack, described how a gunman came into his classroom and started shooting his classmates in the head and the chest, as he watched, hiding under a desk. The attack was condemned worldwide, with the then UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon describing it as “an act of horror and rank cowardice”. Ehsanullah Ehsan, a former spokesperson of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and the mastermind behind the attacks, had also shot at Malala Yousafzai two years before the Peshawar massacre.
Sandy Hook Elementary School in central Connecticut continues to haunt the United States as the site of the country’s second deadliest school shooting. On 14 December, 2012, Adam Lanza, 20, armed with semiautomatic pistols and a rifle, opened fire on the school and killed 20 children and 6 educators. Shots could be heard over the school loudspeaker. Lanza apparently left only one wounded survivor, the rest were shot and killed, and he is believed to have shot his mother before arriving at the school as well. Before parents or law enforcements could arrive, Lanza had committed suicide. His motive remained unclear.
Timeline of deadly US school shootings over the years:
On 20 April, 1999, two students killed 12 of their classmates and one teacher at the Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. They injured 24 others before eventually killing themselves.
On 21 March, 2005, a 16-year-old student in Minnesota went to the Red Lake High School after killing his grandfather and his caretaker at his home. There, he killed five students, a teacher, and a security guard before shooting himself.
On 16 April, 2007, a 23-year-old student killed 32 people at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute’s campus in Blacksburg, Virginia. Over 23 others were wounded. The gunman killed himself.
Nine people were shot and killed on 1 October 2015 when a student, Christopher Harper-Mercer, opened fire on a classroom at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College. The shooter was allegedly driven by racist and religious motivations and committed suicide after the attack. A harrowing account of the incident was relayed by Tracy Heu, one of the few survivors from the shooting which injured 8 people.
On 14 February 2018, Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 people in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida using a semi-automatic rifle. Cruz was a former student, who was expelled from the school for indiscipline. Then President Donald Trump tweeted that there were many signs that the “shooter was mentally disturbed”.
On 18 May 2018, Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, saw 17-year-old shooter Dimitrios Pagourtzis open fire on his campus using a shotgun and a .38 revolver. Ten people, mostly students, were killed and 10 more were wounded. A video interview with one of the students captured her desperate reaction: “Scared, but not surprised.”