by Niala Mohammad
“Why innocent children? What kinds of monsters target children?” Crowds of people gathered in DuPont circle with tearful disbelief at the events that unfolded in Peshawar. Hundreds gathered in Washington, DC’s DuPont Circle to light candles for the 141 lives lost in Peshawar, 132 of which were children.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman, Muhammad Khorasani immediately claimed responsibility for the gruesome attack and stated, “the attack was in retaliation to the military operations in North Waziristan and Khyber tribal agency. We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females…we want them to feel the same pain.” He further boasted, “Six of our fighters successfully entered the army school and we were giving them instructions from outside.”
More than 1,000 students, from preschool to high school, were on the campus when the attack began. The six Taliban terrorist who stormed the Army Public School in Peshawar on Wardak Road entered classrooms and auditoriums opening fire on students and teachers, then walked around methodically shooting those that were still alive in the head and chest.
Surviving students tell their daunting stories that will likely haunt them for the remainder of their lives. One such survivor, Bilal Fayaz, told VOA Deewa Radio that his teacher and class were trying to exit the school building when Bialal’s friend Awais innocently ran ahead of his class anxious to escape. Bilal Fayaz said, “our madam and I told Awais not to run….but he didn’t listen. The Taliban saw him running and shot him head on.”
Another 8th grade student named Bilal Ahmed Khalil told VOA Deewa Radio, “I was stuck in the classroom. My friends and teacher were shot and killed in front of me. I played dead as the Taliban walked over me and the dead bodies of my friends on the classroom floor.” Bilal lost his two best friends Fahad and Tayyab in the attack.
Parents and family members of the schoolchildren shared similar horrific stories. Sajjad Khan told Deewa Radio that he received a phone call from his brother-in-law, who received a frantic alert from one of the school teachers caught inside the building with his classroom.The teacher was begging for help to save his classroom kids. Sajjad and his brother-in-law Saifullah Khan quickly reached the school but the Pakistani Army had surrounded the compound and asked the parents to stand back. Sajjad pleaded, “My kids are inside, how can I just stand here?”
Parents anxiously stood for hours outside of the Army Public School awaiting the fate of their children. Some were overjoyed with relief to see their sons and daughters amidst the crowds of children being scurried out, while other less fortunate parents awaited their child’s fate, frightened and inconsolable. Eighteen year old Mubeen Shah Afridi, a popular student at APS returned home to his mother in a coffin. Mrs Shah holds Mubeen’s clothes to her chest and wails uncontrollably, she keeps repeating, “he went to school without eating breakfast.”
Bollywood actor Anupam Kher stated it best, “Your dastardly act today will have united parents everywhere and earned you their curses.” Parents and children around the world have stood by Peshawar during this time of mourning, offering support and encouragement to break their long kept silence against the Taliban’s atrocities. The nation’s capital-Washington D.C. is familiar with the pain of seeing their children suffer as there have been an estimated 96 school shootings in America over the past two years. Perhaps this is why so many stood in solidarity with Peshawar on Tuesday evening.
Contributions and Photo-Credits:
Sara Sultan Kiani, Bilal Ahmed Khan, Hashim Ali and Arshad Mohmand