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Inside Peshawar school: Eerie silence and the stamp of Taliban brutality

An eerie silence hung over the blood-spattered corridors and classrooms of the Army Public School on Wednesday -- the silence of 132 dead children, their lives cut short by Taliban gunmen. Video inside

world Updated: Dec 18, 2014 07:23 IST
Peshawar attack,Peshawar school attack,children massacre

An eerie silence hung over the shattered, blood-spattered corridors and classrooms of the Army Public School on Wednesday -- the silence of 132 dead Pakistani children, their lives cut short by Taliban gunmen.

Instead of the shouts of excited teenagers echoing down the school's hallways and in the crisp winter air of its manicured grounds, only the crunch of soldiers' boots could be heard.

A school textbook on the carpet at the army-run school. (AFP photo)

As the death toll from Pakistan's deadliest ever terror attack rose to 148, the full horrifying aftermath of Tuesday's eight-hour bloodbath in the northwestern city of Peshawar was revealed.

In the school's plush auditorium, which saw some of the worst of the carnage, were pools of blood on the floor.

Books, ties, sweaters, notepads, spectacles -- the normal trappings of a day at school -- lay scattered, drenched in the blood of children who will never use them again, never go to school again, never laugh or cry again.

They had assembled for a lecture, preparing them for a future that more than 100 of them would never see as they were cut down in a hail of bullets fired by the heavily armed Taliban militants.

It was in this hall that 16-year-old Shahrukh Khan saved his own life by playing dead after being shot in both legs -- stuffing his tie into his mouth to stifle his screams of pain.

Rescue team members go through debris inside the Army Public School, which was attacked by Taliban gunmen. (Reuters photo)

"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," he told AFP.

Total devastation

Around the modern, well-built school, desks lay upended in classrooms, walls were sprayed with blood and pockmarked with bullet holes.

The school's administration block was a scene of total devastation.

It was here that the some Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants holed up for their last stand against the commandos sent to end their rampage.

Once-tidy office rooms were buried under a chaotic mess of broken glass, bullet casings, plaster, masonry and smashed-up computers.

The names on a wooden honours board were illegible under the spray of blood, shrapnel and debris.

In one room the smell of burning lingered, the acrid aftermath of the killing of the school principal. Principal Tahira Qazi's body was retrieved overnight from the debris.

Qazi was inside her office when the militants made their way into the administration building, some 20 meters (yards) from the auditorium. She ran and locked herself into the bathroom but the attackers threw a grenade inside, through a vent, and killed her, army spokesperson Asim Bajwa said.

Pakistani soldiers and media gather in a ceremony hall at the army-run school. (AFP photo)

Elsewhere, a pair of bare, white feet could be seen, along with shreds of human flesh and -- everywhere -- splatters of blood.

In a corner lay a pile of trophies and medals, a poignant reminder of the achievements of young lives now gone.

On a billboard, an indicator of the school's military connections: photographs of students with the inscription: "We love our brave soldiers".

The government declared a three-day mourning period, starting Wednesday. Some of the critically wounded adults - members of the school staff - died overnight, and authorities raised the overall death toll to 148. Another 121 students and three staff members were wounded in the assault.

(With AFP and AP inputs)

Watch: Devastation, heart-rending scenes inside the school

First Published: Dec 17, 2014 17:48 IST