A teacher is believed to have been burned alive while her pupils were forced to watch as Taliban gunmen stormed a school in Pakistan in an apparent revenge attack for Malala Yousafzai winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
Seven Taliban terrorists attacked the Army Public School in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar yesterday, slaughtering 132 children in the deadliest terrorist attack in the nation’s history.
Harrowing eyewitness accounts revealed how students were forced to watch as bodies were burned beyond recognition.
Other survivors told how they played dead while insurgents scoured the school looking for children to shoot, before open fire indiscriminately – sometimes with smiles on their faces.
During a three-hour orgy of bloodshed, seven jihadists claimed at least 141 lives before themselves being killed.
Now one expert has claimed that the horrific events which unfolded yesterday could have been in retaliation to 17-year-old Malala winning this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
The massacre was also said to be an act of revenge against the Pakistani army, which has been attempting to suppress the Pakistani Taliban in their north Waziristan tribal homelands over the past few months.
Malala – the youngest ever person to win the award – was shot by the Pakistani Taliban in 2012 while on a school bus, as punishment for advocating education for women in Pakistan.
She has since become a worldwide symbol for the fight against oppression on women and the right to education.
Ahmed Rashid, an expert on the Islamic militants, told the BBC that the insurgents had various reasons to attack the school – one of which was to send a message to Malala’s supporters.
The Taliban has previously warned that Malala had forged a pact with ‘Western satanic forces’.
Hours after the attack, Malala led the national condemnation on the ‘atrocious’ events, saying she was ‘heartbroken’ by the ‘cold-blooded act of terror’.
The massacre began early yesterday morning as the gunmen stormed the school. A teacher is said to have been doused in petrol and set alight, her pupils forced to watch her die an awful, agonising death.
The victim – allegedly singled out because she was married to a senior army officer – was said to be the wife of army soldier Subedar Abbass.
A source told NBC: ‘They burnt a teacher in front of the students in a classroom. They literally set the teacher on fire with gasoline and made the kids watch.’
Two bodies burned beyond recognition were taken to the Combined Military Hospital in Peshawar, MailOnline has been told. The victims may have been burned as a result of the suicide blast.
One suicide bomber is believed to have blown himself up in a room full of 60 children while there were reports that some of the victims arriving at a hospital in Peshawar had been beheaded, though Pakistani authorities have yet to confirm this.
Most of their victims, aged from six to 18, were shot in the head and chest. Corpses choked the army school’s corridors.
One boy said he was the sole survivor of a group of ten friends who tried to find a hiding place but were mown down.
Another woman said that her friend’s daughter escaped the carnage at the school in the north-western city of Peshawar only because the blood on her clothing allowed her to play dead.
The corridors of the city’s Combined Military Hospital were lined with dead students, their green-and-yellow school uniform ties peeping out of white body bags.
One distraught family member was given the wrong body because the faces of many children were badly burned as a result of the suicide bomb explosions.
By nightfall, the death toll had reached 141, with the Pakistani military confirming that 132 of those were children, with another 122 children injured.
Pakistan’s intelligence agency and police had also carried out raids around the city, arresting two religious leaders and 27 others in connection with the attack.
It is believed the killers may have had inside information, apparently knowing that 150 pupils were at their mercy watching a first aid demonstration in the main hall.
The horror at school came on the day when the military was scheduled to provide a display of first-aid and drills. The wives of a brigadier and a major were searched out and murdered.
Pakistan’s intelligence agency and police hit back last night with raids across Peshawar and the arrest of 29 suspects, including two religious leaders. Taliban bases were bombed from the air.
One investigative official told MailOnline: ‘They knew that children of many army personnel are studying in the school.
‘Also they had the complete information that wives of certain army officials are teachers in the school.’
As the city began the devastating task of treating the horrifically wounded and identifying the dead, one grieving father told MailOnline: ‘This is a terrible injustice. We are innocent people, my boys are innocents who do not carry guns and bombs.’
Even the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan condemned the attack, saying the slaughtering of ‘innocent children’ was against its principles.
In a statement, Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said: ‘Killing innocent children is against the principals of Afghan Taliban and we condemned. Our thoughts are with the families of those who lost their loved ones.’
Major General Asim Bajwa, a spokesman for the Pakistani army, added: ‘Their sole purpose, it seems, was to kill those innocent kids. That’s what they did.’
Meanwhile, terrifying accounts of the children’s ordeal began to emerge.
A 10-year-old boy caught up in the massacre has spoken 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.’
The Taliban said they sent the gunmen into the building as revenge for a Pakistan military crackdown on the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and allies in North Waziristan tribal heartlands.
The TTP said many of their family members had been killed in the campaign, and said the attack on the school was in revenge for those deaths.
‘We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females,’ said Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani. ‘We want them to feel the pain.’
The attack started with seven gunmen entering the 500-pupil school – which has students aged 10 to 18 – in the early hours.
The jihadists shot their way into the building and went from classroom to classroom, shooting at random and picking off students one by one.
Army commandos quickly arrived at the scene and exchanged fire with the gunmen. Eyewitnesses described how students cowered under desks as dead bodies were strewn along corridors.
News images of the aftermath of the attack showed boys in blood-soaked school uniforms with green blazers being carried from the scene.
After a nine-hour battle Pakistani special forces killed all seven terrorists. During this witnesses described hearing heavy gun fire and explosions.
A military source said that seven army personnel, including two officers, were wounded in the fighting.
It appeared to be the worst attack in Pakistan since a 2007 suicide bombing in the port city of Karachi killed 150 people.
The gunmen, who several students said communicated with each other in a foreign language, managed to slip past the school’s tight security because they were wearing Pakistani military uniforms.
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.
The young boy 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.’
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.’
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: ‘They 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”.’
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.
A local hospital said the dead and wounded it had seen were aged between 10 and 20 years old.
Earlier, at least three explosions were heard inside the high school, and a MailOnline journalist at the scene said he heard heavy gunfire.
A security official speaking on condition of anonymity said two helicopter gunships are on site, but had been prevented from firing on the militants because students and teachers were inside the building.
Outside, as the helicopters rumbled overhead, police struggled to hold back distraught parents who were trying to break past a security cordon and get into the school.
Akhtar Ali, who works out for the UN, was weeping outside.
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, my 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.’
Mushtaq Ghani, the spokesman for the provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told journalist Aamir Iqbal: ‘At least six militants wearing military uniforms entered the school from back wall of the school that is known as ‘Army Public School’.
‘There is a graveyard attached to back wall of the school that is run by Pakistani Military, most of the students studying in this school were children of military officers.
‘Attacking innocent children is the most abominable crime and such an attack will not be accepted at all.
‘This can be the reaction of ongoing military operations against terrorists in the North Waziristan area of Pakistan.’
Student Shuja khan claimed that ‘the attack took place the time a senior military officer started his address during the function that was going on inside the school’.
He added: ‘I am not sure but he was the Corp Commander Peshawar who when he started his speech terrorists opened fire on the students sitting in the function.’
A gloating Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the outrage even before the siege was over.
Mohammad Khorasani, the spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban group – known as Tehrik-i-Taliban – said: ‘It’s a gift for those who thought they have crushed us in their so called military operation in North Waziristan.
‘They [the Pakistani military] were always wrong about our capabilities, We are still able to carry out major attacks. Today was just the trailer.
‘Six of our Mujahideen, including three suicide bombers took part in this attack and with the grace of almighty they all executed the plan very accurately.
‘We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females. We want them to feel the pain.’
The school is close to a military base and the children of many officers and soldiers go there.
More than 100 pupils were being treated in hospital last night and the death total is expected to rise
The military intelligence agencies have now arrested prayer leaders of Behari and Aabshar colony, which is adjacent to the Army Public School, along with 27 other suspected people from the nearby streets.
One of the prayer leaders is said to be Khaliq jan from Darra Adam Khel, some 23 kilometers South of Peshawar. All the arrested people have been taken away to an unknown location for interrogation.
Sources have said that even the senior figures of the provincial government have not been informed about the identification of the detainees. Senior army officials in Peshawar, however, know who has been arrested.
It is believed that terrorists have been provided refuge by locals in streets adjacent to the school.
As night fell, officials could sill be seen in the streets, trying to piece together information.
The insurgents had inside knowledge that wives of certain army officials were teachers in the school.
Wife of Subedar Abbass was torched to death, while wives of Brigadier Tariq and Major Jamshed were also killed.
A son of Subedar Mazhar, who was student, was also killed when he was identified by terrorists.
It also emerged that terrorists have codes for every city of Pakistan and every government installation. The code of Islamabad is Kafristan – city of infidels.
Sources said agencies had information about planned attacks at English medium schools in Islamabad, but not in Peshawar.
This information was obtained by tracing a phone call of one of the terrorists. But they attacked a school in Peshawar.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called the massacre a ‘national tragedy’ and is on his way to the area.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the Taliban attack on the military school was a dark, dark day for humanity’.
Denouncing the militants’ Islamist ideology as a ‘perversion’ of Muslim belief, Mr Cameron said the fight against terror would be ‘the struggle of our generation, both here in our own country and around the world’.
Speaking to a panel of Parliament’s most senior backbench MPs at the House of Commons Liaison Committee, the Prime Minister said: ‘The scale of what has happened in Pakistan I think simply defies belief.
‘It is a dark, dark day for humanity when something on this scale happens with no justification.’
He added: ‘There is not a belief system in the world that can justify this sort of appalling act.
‘I think what this shows is the worldwide threat that is posed by this poisonous ideology of extremist Islamist terrorism.
‘It is nothing to do with one of the world’s great religions – Islam, which is a religion of peace. This is a perversion.
‘But we have to recognise the scale of what we face – in this country but also, as we see, around the world. And we must with our allies use everything we have in our power to defeat it.’
He added: ‘I say to this committee, as I’ve said before, this is, I think, going to be the struggle of our generation, both here in our own country and around the world.
‘And we are going to have to show every bit of resilience that we’ve shown facing similar problems and challenges we’ve faced in the past.’
Mr Cameron had earlier Tweeted : ‘The news from Pakistan is deeply shocking. It’s horrifying that children are being killed simply for going to school.’
And US president Barack Obama condemned the ‘odious’ and ‘horrific’ Taliban attack while reiterating its support for the Pakistan government’s efforts ‘to combat terrorism and extremism.’
Education campaigner and Nobel peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai said: ‘I am heartbroken by this senseless and cold-blooded act of terror in Peshawar that is unfolding before us.’
‘The United States strongly condemns senseless and inhumane attacks on innocent students and educators, and stands in solidarity with the people of Pakistan, and all who fight the menace of terrorism. Few have suffered more at the hands of terrorists and extremists than the people of Pakistan,’ U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson said in a statement.
The Pakistani Taliban have targeted security forces, checkpoints, military bases and airports, but attacks on civilian targets with no logistical significance are relatively rare.
In September, 2013, dozens of people, including many children, were killed in an attack on a church, also in Peshawar.
Meanwhile, Russell Brand faced an online backlash after accusing the U.S. of terrorism as the attack in Pakistan unfolded.
The comedian posted on Twitter a link to a YouTube video in which he speaks to former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg.
Alongside the link he tweeted: ‘The people who do ‘terror’ best are the people who decide what ‘terror’ is.’
But others on the microblogging website reacted angrily to the self-styled revolutionary, who uses the handle @rustyrockets.
They highlighted how his tweet coincided with news that more than 100 children had been killed in the Taliban assault.
Nate Anderson wrote: ‘Bad timing given what’s just happened in Pakistan dude. Bad bad timing’.
Colin Wright, a professor of International Relations, added: ‘@rustyrockets you do talk some crap at times. Not all the time but I’m seeing more and more of it. You tweet this while Pakistan unfolds.’
Another Twitter user Mark Lott wrote: ‘I guess you haven’t seen the news from Pakistan today yet. @rustyrockets’.
Brand’s interview with Moazzam Begg appears to have taken place at his flat in Hoxton, east London.
The YouTube video was titled: ‘CIA Torture – Guantanamo Bay Prisoner Lifts Lid: Russell Brand The Trews (E211)’.
Begg, from Birmingham, was held by the U.S. government in Bagram, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after being arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and was released without charge in 2005.
Russell Brand recently faced criticism on Twitter when he tweeted the mobile phone number of a reporter who had requested an interview.
The Peshawar school massacre came as Pakistani Taliban insurgents launched a massive attack in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province.
Thousands of militants crossed the border from Pakistan and stormed Dangam district, forcing local security to call in the help of the Afghan National Army, who have so far killed 18 insurgents and wounded 28 others during intense firefights.
About 2,000 insurgents are involved in the battle said Kunar province’s police chief, Abdul Habib Saidkhail, who added that almost of those killed or injured were of Pakistani origin.
The Pakistani Taliban is an ally of the better known Taliban over the border in Afghanistan, but operates as an entirely separate organisation.
In September the Pakistani Taliban declared its support for the Islamic State and vowed to send fighters to assist the terror group as it was wages bloody war in Syria and Iraq.
‘Oh our brothers, we are proud of you in your victories. We are with you in your happiness and your sorrow,’ Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said in a statement issued to mark the Muslim holy festival of Eid al-Adha.
‘In these troubled days, we call for your patience and stability, especially now that all your enemies are united against you. Please put all your rivalries behind you,’ he added.
‘All Muslims in the world have great expectations of you. We are with you, we will provide you with Mujahideen [fighters] with every possible support,’ he said.