NADER BUNERI/Agencies

PESHAWAR - Teenage survivors of Tuesday’s Taliban attack on a Peshawar school described how they played dead after being shot in legs by insurgents hunting down students to kill.

Speaking from his bed in the trauma ward of the city’s Lady Reading Hospital, Shahrukh Khan, 16, said he and his classmates were in a careers guidance session in the school auditorium when four gunmen wearing paramilitary uniforms burst in.

“Someone screamed at us to get down and hide below the desks,” he said, adding that the gunmen shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) before opening fire.

“Then one of them shouted: ‘There are so many children beneath the benches, go and get them’,” Khan told AFP. “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.”

The Army Public School is attended by boys and girls from both military and civilian backgrounds.

As his father, a shopkeeper, comforted him in his blood-soaked bed, Khan recalled: “The men left after some time and I stayed there for a few minutes. Then I tried to get up but fell to the ground because of my wounds. “When I crawled to the next room, it was horrible. I saw the dead body of our office assistant 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, crawled behind a door to hide and then lost consciousness. “When I woke up I was lying on the hospital bed,” he added.

Another student at the hospital, Hammad Ahmed, added: “I was with my friends in the corridor in front of my class when we heard gunshots.

“We rushed inside the classroom, our teacher closed the door, she was trying to lock it when the terrorists kicked on the door and forced it open,” he continued.

“All 10 of my classmates and our teacher died, only I survived,” he said. But like Khan, he survived despite being shot in the feet because his attackers assumed he was already dead and moved on.

A girl student also survived the attack by playing dead, BBC reported.

Shireen Khalid Wadud told BBC that her friend’s 13-year-old daughter was the only one to escape from her class. She told the network the girl was trying to find her brother — another student — when shots were fired, and there was “bloodshed everywhere.”

“She pretended to be dead because her clothes were washed up in blood,” Wadud said. “And then when they thought that she was dead, they turned away, and that is how she managed to escape from the back door.”

“She is wounded in her leg, but fortunately it is not serious,” Wadud continued. “She is in [the] hospital. She is very panicked and she is frightened.”

Moving scenes were witnessed in the casualty wards of Lady Reading Hospital as parents wept and wandered here and there to search for their loved ones.

Narrating his ordeal one of the injured students told The Nation that they were confused that how FC personnel were so merciless to target the innocent children but actually they were militants in the guise of FC men wearing their uniform. He said militants first entered the main hall and then sprayed bullets indiscriminately on students.

“I was in a state of fear when I saw my classmates and other schoolchildren in pools of blood,” he said. “Some of the students were seriously injured in stampede and some of them succeeded to get out of school unhurt, however, majority of them became victim as militants had taken control of the entire building,” he added.

“There was a hue and cry in each corner of the school, we had no other option but to escape in the middle of the firing putting themselves in danger despite militants warning not to try to escape,” he said with fear on his face.

Another eyewitness told journalists that terrorists entered the school from the backside first and opened firing on the main gate and then entered the college wing where they handed over gun to a class leader and ordered him to shoot his classmates or to face death.

Hundreds of women rushed to Lady Reading Hospital to search for their loved ones, they were screaming and beating their chests.

A father who lost his son in the blast asked what kind of justice that was when police were busy guarding the minister houses but there was no one to protect innocent schoolchildren.

He said the entry of six suicide bombers along with arms and ammunition in Army Public School in the cantonment area showed that how efficient their forces were.