Children were forced to watch as their teacher was burned alive Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/ar
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This morning just before 10am, all was well at the Army Public School in Peshawar, with teachers lecturing eager students and a first aid class being given in an auditorium.
Then all hell broke loose as nine Taliban gunmen burst into the school, shooting at random and blowing themselves up.
As Pakistani special forces engaged the attackers, harrowing eyewitness accounts of the massacre emerged from survivors.
One 15-year-old student Shahrukh Khan, who was shot in both legs, told how he hid under a bench and played dead to avoid being killed by the insurgents.
Speaking from his bed in the trauma ward of the city's Lady Reading Hospital, the teenager told how he even shoved a tie in his mouth to stop him from screaming out in fear of the gunmen.
Khan described how, after they burst in shouting 'Allah-o-Akbar' - which means 'God is greatest' - one of them shouted: 'There are so many children beneath the benches, go and get them'.
He said: 'I saw a pair of big black boots coming towards me, this guy was probably hunting for students hiding beneath the benches.'
Khan said he felt searing pain as he was shot in both his legs just below the knee.
He decided to play dead, adding: 'I folded my tie and pushed it into my mouth so that I wouldn't scream.
'The man with big boots kept on looking for students and pumping bullets into their bodies. I lay as still as I could and closed my eyes, waiting to get shot again.
'My body was shivering. I saw death so close and I will never forget the black boots approaching me -- I felt as though it was death that was approaching me.'
Khan told how he tried to get up, but fell because of his injuries. Desperate to escape to safety, he crawled into the next room, where he the body of the school's office assistant body on fire.
He said: 'She was sitting on the chair with blood dripping from her body as she burned.'
Khan, who said he also saw the body of a soldier who worked at the school, then crawled behind a door to hide, where he lost consciousness.
He added: 'One of my teachers was crying, she was shot in the hand and she was crying in pain.
'One terrorist then walked up to her and started shooting her until she stopped making any sound. All around me my friends were lying injured and dead.'
A 10-year-old boy caught up in the massacre also spoke of his dramatic escape from Taliban gunmen as bullets whizzed past his head - having seen two of his classmates shot dead in front of him.
Irfan Shah told how he was sitting in his class at 10:30 when he heard the sound of firing outside.
Shah told MailOnline: 'It was our social studies period. Our teacher first told us that some kind of drill was going on and that we do not need to worry. It was very intense firing. Then the sound came closer. Then we heard cries. One of our friends open the window of the class.
'He started weeping as there were several school fellows lying on the ground outside the class.
'Everybody was in panic. Two of our class fellows ran outside class in panic. They were shot in front of us.'
He said that the teacher asked the children, part of a class of 33, to run towards the back gate of the school.
He continued: 'The back gate is around 200 meters from our class room. I tightly held the hand of my friend Daniyal and we both ran towards the back gate. We were weeping. I felt bullets passing by my head twice. It was so terrible.
'We reached back gate in a minute. As we stepped outside the gate, we started weeping again very loudly. An aunt from a nearby house heard us and took us inside her house. We were shivering. She gave us water and comforted us. We stayed there for 15 minutes.
'Our van always parked a few hundred meters away from the school. We then went to our van. The van driver told us that our school fellows who have been murdered in the attack are martyrs and they would go to jannah (paradise).
'We have been told that two of our class fellows died in the attack. They both were shot in front of all of us.'
Amir Sohail Khan, 19, told MailOnline how he was at his college a few kilometres away from the school when he heard about the attack.
He said: 'I heard about it around 11 at my college. Then my uncle gave me a call and asked me to reach the school to check the whereabouts of my young cousins. One is seven and other is nine. It took me more than 45 minutes to reach the spot as army closed down all the roads and streets leading to school.'
He said that went to the main gate of the school around 12:30.
He continued: 'I saw a few soldiers trying to encircle a young man who was wearing a similar uniform to them. When soldiers tried to approach him, there was a huge blast. The other guy was one of the terrorists. This was such a horrible scene.
'For a few moments, I couldn't understand what was going on. I saw his body parts flying in the air after the blast. One of the soldiers was badly injured.'
Khan also saw terrorists firing indiscriminately in the class rooms on the second floor of the building.
He said: 'It is a huge double story building. I saw a terrorist getting into a classroom and firing like anything. Then I heard the cries and most of those crying became silent after a few minutes which means either they died or fainted.'
A soldier told him that the kids who had successfully managed to get out of school were in a nearby park.
He added: 'I went there but couldn't find my cousins among those kids. A soldier on told me that they might have died in the attack. I could not even imagine that. After, a few minutes I saw the elder one coming towards the park. I was never so happy and relieved to see him. He was weeping and shivering with fear. I held him to my chest. It was great feeling.
'Five minutes after him, my younger cousin also appeared. I lost my senses in happiness after seeing him. Our family is blessed. I saw mothers and fathers crying like mad at the gate of the school. I do not believe that we are so blessed.'
Mohammad Muneeb told how his 14-year-old brother Muhammad Shaheer was shot dead in front of him as 200 children sat in an auditorium, getting training in first aid.
'Two guards were there, sitting on the desk at the front, when four people wearing black uniform ran in. They just started firing. First they targeted the brigadier and his guards, the two guards were killed.
'The brigadier managed to get away safely and they started firing at the students.
'I saw my own brother die, he was shot in the throat.'
A school volunteer who did not want to be named described the auditorium shooting: 'I was working with the other organisations. What I saw was indescribable. I was in the auditorium when they burst in, it was 1030 when they broke in to the school. There was a function in the auditorium, they just opened fire on everyone. They just started firing and shooting violently with AK47s.
'There was around 200 children in the auditorium, all boys.'
Father Muhammad Dahir, a computer engineer, said: 'I am so sad, I cannot explain my feelings. I cannot speak. There are dead bodies everywhere. This city is filled with dead bodies. I cannot explain my feelings. What kind of horror are we involved in? We are in the frontline here. Everyone is pushing us, the Americans, our own government.'
Pharmacist Ahmed Salman, whose 15-year-old son was killed, said: 'I took my son to school this morning and I was at work when someone told me there was firing in the school. I went there and saw children being taken out in ambulances. I was searching but I could not find him. My younger brother called me and told me that Ahmed's body was lying in the mortuary of the military hospital.
'He had a bullet in his lungs.'
Mudassar Abbas, a physics laboratory assistant at the school, said some students were celebrating at a party when the attack began.
'I saw six or seven people walking class-to-class and opening fire on children,' he said.
Mudassir Awan, an employee at the school, said he saw at least six people scaling the walls of the building, but initially thought little of it.
'We thought it must be the children playing some game. But then we saw a lot of firearms with them,' he said.
'As soon as the firing started, we ran to our classrooms. They were entering every class and they were killing the children,' he added.
One of the wounded students, Abdullah Jamal, said he was with a group of 8th, 9th and 10th graders who were getting first-aid instructions and training with a team of Pakistani army medics when the attack began.
When the shooting started, Mr Jamal, who was shot in the leg, said nobody knew what was going on in the first few seconds.
'Then I saw children falling down who were crying and screaming. I also fell down. I learned later that I have got a bullet,' he said, speaking from his hospital bed.
'All the children had bullet wounds. All the children were bleeding,' he added.
Akhtar Ali, who works out for the UN, was weeping outside the school.
He told MailOnline: 'My 14-year-old niece Afaq is inside the school. I don't know if she is alive or dead. I am desperate. I am just waiting in hope. It is agony. '
'My son was in uniform in the morning. He is in a casket now,' wailed one parent, Tahir Ali, as he came to the hospital to collect the body of his 14-year-old son, Abdullah.
'My son was my dream. My dream has been killed.'
MailOnline spoke to Naveed Ahmed, who works at the irrigation department. He said: 'My son Hasid Asmad is 16-years-old, is still inside the school., He took a mobile and called me while I was in the mosque, he was praying down the phone. I have been waiting so many hours for news. My son told that he was being kept safe by the Pakistan army inside. They are taking a picture of them to prove they are safe.
'They have told me that the children are safe in the custody of the army.'
Mrs Humayun Khan, one of the mothers of a student, said with tears in her eyes: 'No body is telling me about my son's whereabouts... I have checked the hospital and he is not there. I am really losing my heart. God forbid may he's not among the students still under custody of terrorists.'
A student who survived the attack said soldiers came to rescue students during a lull in the firing.
'When we were coming out of the class we saw dead bodies of our friends lying in the corridors. They were bleeding. Some were shot three times, some four times,' the student said.
'The men entered the rooms one by one and started indiscriminate firing at the staff and students.'
Zakir Ahmad, who runs an electronics store in Peshawar, has lost his 16-year-old Abdullah and is frantically searching for 12-year-old Hassnain, who is still missing hours after the atrocity.
Crying and barely able to speak, he told MailOnline: 'When I heard there was an attack I ran to the school. I heard firing. I sent my cousins and staff to search the hospitals while I stayed praying at school. Then after an hour I got the call, he just said Abdullah is dead. I have found him in the hospital. I still don't know anything about my boy Hasnain.
'This is a terrible injustice. We are innocent people, by boys are innocents who do not carry guns and bombs. The only justice for me is to find these people who are supporting extremists and hang them in rows. Make them die for what they did.
'My son was such a good boy. Obedient, bright. When he was going to school this morning he came into my room and kissed me.'
One grade eight student consoled his mother on the phone that he was all right and unhurt - despite being sat with a bullet in his chest.
The student, Osama, told The Express Tribune that his parents could not reach him, because the surrounding roads had been blocked.
Instead, he calmly spoke with them on the phone, while trying to avoid being spotted by the gun-wielding militants.
He said: 'I told mama on the phone that I am safe and not hit, but I had received a bullet right in the chest.'
Khalid Khan, 13, also told how he was in his first aid lesson in the main hall when two clean-shaven armed men came into room.
He said: 'hey opened fire at the students and then went out. The army doctor and soldiers managed to escape and we locked the doors from inside. But very soon they came, broke the doors and entered and again started firing.'
He added: 'They killed most of my class mates and then I didn’t know what happened as I was brought to the hospital.'
Others said the gunmen addressed each other in a language they could only recognise as either Arabic or Farsi – a possible testament to the Taliban’s network of hundreds of foreign fighters.
Another student, Jalal Ahmed, 15, could hardly speak, choking with tears, as Reuters approached him at one of the hospitals.
He said: 'I am a biochemistry student and I was attending a lecture in our main hall. There are five doors in the hall. After some time we heard someone kicking the back doors. There were gunshots but our teacher told us to be quiet and calmed us down. Then the men came with big guns.'
His father, Mushtaq Ahmed, said: 'He keeps screaming: "take me home, take me home, they will come back and kill me".'