The following accounts may be disturbing for some readers; The Express Tribune advises reader discretion.
Aamir Ali, a second-year engineering student, lost 10 of his comrades within a blink of the eye during the siege at the Army Public School.
Here are some of the devastating witness accounts to have come out of the Peshawar attack:
“I was sitting in the corridor with 10 of my classmates when we heard firing. We immediately ran towards the classroom to hide there but the militants chased us down and found us. They were dressed in shalwar kameez and the only thing they told us is: ‘read the kalma’,” said Ali, remorsefully adding that he was the only one of his 10 friends that survived the attack.
Witnesses described how gunmen went from classroom to classroom, shooting children, after a huge blast shook the Army Public School, while some described police struggling to hold back distraught parents trying to break past a cordon and get to the school when three loud explosions went off.
Ninth grader Kashan, son of Zaheerudin, told our correspondent, “We were sitting in the hall and a colonel was giving a lecture when we heard firing from the back.”
Kashan said, “The sound of the firing kept moving closer when suddenly the door behind us was kicked down and two people started firing indiscriminately.”
The ninth-grader said chaos ensued and the last thing he remembers is children and people falling to the ground. Kashan escaped but with injuries on his feet.
Ahsan Mukhtar, a second-year intermediate student, said his teacher made the entire classroom crouch and move towards the end of the classroom as the firing started. “After an hour, when the firing relatively calmed down, the army came and rescued us,” Mukhtar added.
A grandmother told The Express Tribune how she was called by the school’s principal to pick up her grandchildren when the attack happened. “The principal told us that 20 students had been injured and we should come get our children as soon as possible,” she said. “I hung up before the principal could finish talking.”
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.
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.”
Distraught parents thronged the Lady Reading Hospital, weeping uncontrollably as children’s bodies arrived, their school uniforms drenched in blood.
Irshadah Bibi, 40, whose 12-year-old son was among the dead, beat her face in grief, throwing herself against an ambulance.
“O God, why did you snatch away my son? What is the sin of my child and all these children?” she wept.
At least 123 children have been killed in the attack and many more are missing. The Taliban say they sent in six gunmen wearing suicide vests.