Peshawar school attack: teacher gave her life to save pupils

Female teacher told gunmen to shoot her first

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The Independent Online

She was nothing less than a hero.

As Peshawar today buried its dead, pupils from the Army Public School who survived the Taliban attack that left 148 people dead revealed how a young teacher, Afsha Ahmed, had given her life to save theirs.

“The [gunmen] entered our classroom as we were sitting with our teacher,” one pupil, Irfanullah, who was shot in the chest and is recovering in hospital, told Newsweek Pakistan. “She seemed to understand what was going on before we did because she immediately stood up and prevented the terrorists from targeting us.”

Speaking from his bed in Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital, the 15-year-old said that Ms Ahmed, herself aged only 24, had told the gunmen she would not let them shoot her charges.

“Her last words to the terrorists were ‘You must kill me first because I will not see my students’ bodies lying in front of me’,” he said. “She was so brave.”

The youngster, whose school bears the motto “I shall rise and shine”, said the gunmen were apparently unmoved by her words and threw something at her.

 “The next thing we knew, she was on fire,” he said. “Even while burning, she shouted at us to run away and find refuge.”

The teenager told the magazine that felt guilty for abandoning his teacher and fleeing for his life, even though there was nothing he could have done to save her.

“I feel so selfish for running away instead of trying to find a way to save her,” he said. “She is my hero … she was like a superwoman,” said Irfanullah. “Who will teach us now?

As Pakistan declared three days of mourning, journalists were taken on a tour of the wrecked school. The Associated Press said the premises were still spattered with blood while torn notebooks, pieces of clothing and children's shoes were scattered about amid the broken window glass. A pair of children’s glasses lay on the floor.

Prayer vigils were held across Pakistan and in other schools and students spoke of their shock at attack and the apparent vulnerability of schools to assaults from extremists. Army commandos fought the Taliban for a full day to clear the school and kill he gunmen. 

The attack began when seven Taliban gunmen, explosives strapped to their bodies, scaled a back wall using a ladder to get into the school on Tuesday morning. Once inside, they made their way into the main auditorium where many students had gathered for an event, military spokesman Maj Gen Asim Bajwa told reporters during the tour on Wednesday.

The militants then made their way to the hall's stage and started shooting at random. As students tried to flee for the doors, they were shot and killed. The military recovered about 100 bodies from the auditorium alone, said Mr Bajwa.

“This is not a human act,” he said. “This is a national tragedy.”