PESHAWAR, Pakistan — The high brick wall outside the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar gives the first clue into the horror that unfolded inside its classrooms.
A section of barbed wire has been cut at the top, allowing some of the Taliban attackers who struck Tuesday to scale the wall with bamboo ladders and drop inside, intent on killing.
Another team of militants got in further down the wall. And then they took off toward the school buildings.
As they burst into the main auditorium, full of children taking classes, the attackers split into two teams.
Now the media, allowed into the school by the Pakistani army, can see close-up the carnage they wrought.
Overturned wooden chairs lie on the floor, pools of reddish-brown dried blood beneath them. More blood has pooled under red fabric-covered seats set in rows.
It was here that so many children cowered, trying to hide under benches and chairs. A single brown shoe sits discarded under one seat, the fate of its owner unknown.
A brigadier was giving a lesson in first aid when the attackers charged in. Bandages and other first aid equipment lie tumbled on a desk. A dummy used in class remains on the floor where the brigadier fell.
“They shot me as soon as they came in,” says 17-year-old survivor Sadeel Ahmed, speaking from his hospital bed. “We tried to run. I was shot in my shoulder. The people they came, they had no sense of humanity in them. They killed little children. Muslims would not do this.”
More puddles of drying blood and abandoned shoes lie by one of two doors through which the army says the students sought to flee the auditorium.
A hundred of them were gunned down as they tried to escape, in an act of cold-blooded murder. It was the place where the greatest number of lives were lost.
Beyond the auditorium, blood splatters can still be seen on the ground in all directions.
Not satisfied with their slaughter in the auditorium, the Taliban attackers went upstairs to a computer lab. Pools of blood on the floor show how their young victims, many of them sons and daughters of army personnel from around Peshawar, were sprayed with bullets as they sat at each machine.
Classroom after classroom tells the same brutal story. A pair of glasses on the floor here, children’s pencils and pens there, a page from a schoolbook lying torn and crumpled.
Bullet holes punctuate a blackboard where the teacher would have been standing. Below, another gruesome red stain where the teacher fell.
In the administration block, where the final showdown took place between Taliban militants and security forces, shattered bricks by the door show where one attacker detonated his suicide vest.
Shrapnel from the ball bearings packed inside the vest, to cause maximum harm when detonated, pockmarks the wall to one side.
Soldiers with guns still stand guard as the media are allowed in to see the culmination of a bloody siege that lasted several hours.
Rubble on the far side of the room shows where another suicide bomber blew himself up, leaving chaos and devastation behind.
The principal’s office is nearby. She also was killed, one of a dozen teachers to lose their lives in the attack.
Right at the end of the corridor, its painted walls pocked and blasted, is the spot where the last suicide bomber detonated his vest. The deputy principal, who hid in a room nearby, survived.
In the dusty, sunlit yard into which the corridor opens lie the remains of the last attacker — a small mound covered by a white cloth, another soldier standing by.
A day earlier, the people of Peshawar mourned as they buried their dead — more than 140 of them, mostly children, who’d blithely left home for an ordinary day at school, never to come home.