PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- A senior official says 104 people, including 84 children, have been killed in a militant attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan.
The chief minister of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pervez Khattak, spoke to media hours after gunmen entered the Army Public School and gunfire and explosions were heard inside, where hundreds of students and staff remained.
Army personnel and anguished parents surrounded the building in the provincial capital Peshawar's high-security zone following the morning attack.
"In CMH (Combined Military Hospital) there are around 60 and there are 24 dead in Lady Reading [hospital]," Khattak told local television channels, referring to children.
He said the number of children wounded was about the same as the death toll.
A student in 10th grade who said his name was Ebad gave a chilling account and said he had seen dozens of his schoolmates killed.
"It was 10:30 this morning when we were called to the auditorium to get first aid training by an army colonel. When we arrived, firing started, and they entered the auditorium," he said of the attackers. "They killed ... many students. I saw about 40 to 50 students killed in front of me, and they fired on the colonel."
He said he had seen four or five attackers wearing plain black clothing.
Government and hospital officials had previously put the death toll at about 20 but said it was likely to rise as some of the wounded were in critical condition and the siege continued.
A Radio Mashaal correspondent said the attack began when armed men entered the school in the morning and opened fire.
A Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman who called himself Muhammad Khorasani phoned a Radio Mashaal correspondent and claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was revenge for the army operation in North Waziristan.
Khorasani told Reuters the attackers "have instructions not to harm the children but to target the army personnel."
But most of those confirmed dead were children.
Military officials at the scene said at least six armed men had entered the school and that about 500 students and teachers were believed to be inside.
Jamshed Khan, a school bus driver, said he was standing outside the school when "firing suddenly started and there was chaos everywhere and the screams of children and teachers."
A teacher told a private television station the attack occurred during exams.
"We were in the examination hall when the attack took place," he said. "Now the army men are clearing the classes one by one."
The Pakistani military says it has killed more than 1,100 militants in North Waziristan since it launched an offensive there in June using air strikes, artillery, mortar fire and ground troops.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he would travel to Peshawar to monitor the situation.
With reporting by Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP and dawn.com