ISPR DG says most children died when they tried to run toward the doors of school’s auditorium
Syed Basit Naqvi was sitting at his desk when the principal at his army-run school in Peshawar rushed into the classroom and shouted for the guard to lock the door. As he did, three militants stormed in and starting shooting.
The guard dropped dead first, followed by other students hit by indiscriminate gunfire. The attackers then lined up the remaining schoolboys and starting shooting them in the head one by one at point blank range. When they came to Naqvi, he ducked his head, a move that saved his life.
“The bullet slightly hit my head and I deliberately fell down,” Naqvi, 13, said at Lady Reading Hospital. “He must’ve thought I was dead.”
After they left the room, Naqvi hid behind a chair with three other students. He watched as his friends lay in pools of blood on the ground before he was rescued by medical staff. His mother, a teacher at the school, wasn’t as fortunate. She died from a gunshot wound to the head, which Naqvi discovered when he realized they were in the same ambulance.
A day after 148 people died in one of the most violent attacks in Pakistan’s history, the nation surveyed the damage from a nine-hour slaughter at an army-run school near the Afghan border. Taliban terrorists took responsibility for the attack, saying they targeted the children of military officers to force the end of an army offensive that began in June.
Mohammad Hilal, 14, was in an auditorium with 200 other schoolboys learning how to conduct basic first aid when he heard a loud bang. He remembers falling to the floor with a gunshot wound as other students dropped dead around him.
“He kept firing for what seemed like two or three minutes and then left,” Hilal, 16, said from a hospital bed, where he was recovering from three gunshots to the leg and one in the arm. “Then he came back after a minute or two and started firing on the students still standing.”
Blood stains, children’s shoes and eyeglasses were strewn throughout the auditorium a day after 132 students were slaughtered. All seven attackers entered through the auditorium and shot down on students from the stage, military spokesman Asim Bajwa said.“Most children died when they tried to run toward the doors,” Bajwa said as he showed reporters the devastation at the school, while soldiers patrolled from the rooftops.
After killing students in the auditorium, the attackers moved to the administrative offices. They eventually detonated suicide vests after security forces surrounded them, Bajwa said.
Blood and bullet holes marked the walls of a staff room, with cabinets thrown open, furniture splintered, windows broken and doors knocked off their frames. Thirteen employees of the Army Public School were among the dead.
The principal’s office was completely black.
“Reports are that the principal was burned when she tried to stop attackers from killing children,” Bajwa said.
The streets around the school were quiet on Wednesday. Police vehicles with mounted guns were parked at major intersections, and officers with AK-47 rifles patrolled the streets.
Crowds thronged the Lady Reading Hospital on Tuesday night, looking at lists of the dead children and their ages that hung in the lobby. Most were 14.
Doctors and nurses urged frantic parents to allow them to treat the patients in the main rooms. Family members wept outside of the emergency room.
Mohammad Iqbal, 61, lives behind the school. When gunfire erupted, he locked his family in his house. He said the attackers burned the vehicle they arrived in, a van registered in Islamabad.
“I was worried the attackers would try to take refuge in my house,” Iqbal said.
Guloono Baba, another eyewitness who owns a shop next to the school, said soldiers helped protect his family during the gunfire.
“We were hearing gunfire and blasts and women and children screaming — they were shouting ‘They are killing kids and teachers,’’ Baba said. ‘‘My kids were so scared and were asking me what’s happening outside. But I was just blank.’’