Syed Basit Naqvi was sitting at his desk when the principal at his army-run school in Pakistan rushed into the classroom and shouted for the guard to lock the door. As he did, three militants stormed in and started shooting.
The guard dropped dead first, followed by other students hit by indiscriminate gunfire. The attackers then lined up the remaining schoolboys and started 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 Dec. 16 at Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, the northwestern city where the attack took place earlier that day. “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.
After 148 people died in one of the most violent attacks in Pakistan’s history, the nation yesterday surveyed the damage from a nine-hour slaughter at an army-run school near the Afghan border. Taliban militants 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.”
A Pakistani student is treated at the hospital in Peshawar.
Blood stains, children’s shoes and eyeglasses were strewn throughout the auditorium yesterday after 132 students were killed. 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 yesterday. Police vehicles with mounted guns were parked at major intersections, and officers with AK-47 rifles patrolled the streets. Army chief General Raheel Sharif participated in a joint funeral prayer at the main army base in Peshawar yesterday morning.
Crowds thronged the Lady Reading Hospital in the hours after the attack, looking at lists of the dead children and their ages that hung in the lobby. Most were 14.
People attend the funeral for a victim of the attack on the school in Peshawar.
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.
The military has conducted 20 air strikes in the tribal Khyber Agency area since the school attack, killing about 60 suspected militants, Bajwa said on Twitter.
Mohammad Iqbal, 61, lives behind the school. When the gunfire first erupted, he locked his family in his house. He said the attackers burned the vehicle they arrived in, a van registered in Islamabad, the capital.
“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.’’