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Chilling exchange leads to Afghanistan

AFTERMATH: A girl's shoe in a hall at the army-run school in Peshawar, a day after it was attacked by Taleban militants. The authorities have transcripts of the conversation between a militant and his handler.


    Dec 19, 2014

    Chilling exchange leads to Afghanistan


    "WE HAVE killed all the children in the auditorium," one of the attackers told his handler. "What do we do now?" he asked. "Wait for the army people, kill them before blowing yourself," his handler ordered.

    According to a security official, this was one of the last conversations the attackers and their handler had shortly before two remaining suicide bombers charged towards the special operations soldiers positioned just outside the side entrance of the Army Public School's administration block here on Tuesday.

    This and other conversations between the attackers and their handlers during the 71/2-hour siege of of the school in Warsak Road form part of an intelligence dossier that Raheel Sharif, Chief of Army Staff, shared with the Afghan authorities on Wednesday.

    "Vital elements of intelligence were shared with the authorities concerned with regard to the Peshawar incident," an Inter-Services Public Relations statement on General Sharif's visit to Afghanistan said.

    Pakistan has the names of the attackers and the transcripts of the conversation between one of them - identified as Abuzar - and his handler, "commander" Umar.

    Umar Adizai, also known as Umar Naray and Umar Khalifa, is a senior militant from the Frontier Region Peshawar.

    Security officials believe he made the calls from Nazian district in Afghanistan's Nangrahar province, and want the Afghan authorities to take action.

    The officials believe that a group of seven militants attacked the school. Five of them blew themselves up in the administration block, and two others outside it.

    The attackers entered the building by climbing its rear wall, using a ladder and cutting barbed wire. They headed for the main auditorium, where an instructor was giving a first-aid lesson to students of the school's senior section.

    "Did the attackers have prior knowledge of the congregation in the main hall? We don't know this yet. This is one of the questions we are trying to find an answer to," a security official said.

    A watchman standing at the rear of the auditorium appears to be the first victim, going by the patch of congealed blood in one corner of the open courtyard.

    Finding the rear door closed, the militants charged towards the two main doors, and this is where the carnage mainly appears to have taken place, according to a military officer who took part in the counter-assault. Blood at the entrance bore testimony to the horrific, indiscriminate shooting.

    "There were piles of bodies, most dead, some alive. Blood everywhere. I wish I had not seen this," the officer said.

    The students in the hall appear to have rushed to leave the place after hearing the first round of shooting, and this was where they ran into the militants who were blocking the two doors.

    In the main hall, there was blood everywhere. The shoes of students and women teachers lay asunder. Those who had hid behind rows of seats were shot in the head one by one.

    Every row of seats was bloodied. On one seat, were the bloodstained English notebooks of two eighth-grade students, Muhammad Asim and Muhammad Zahid.

    A corner to the right of the stage in the auditorium was where a woman teacher, who had begged the militants to have mercy and let the children go, was shot and later burnt.

    By that time, Special Services Group (SSG) personnel had arrived and fighting had ensued, and the militants were forced to make a run for the administration block just a few metres away.

    Security officials believe the death toll could have been far higher had the militants reached the junior section before the arrival of the SSG personnel.