Taliban gunmen stormed a school in Pakistan shooting dead 141 people - almost all of them students - in the worst attack to hit the country in years and which ended with all six attackers dead.
The overwhelming majority of the victims at the army-run school, in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, were children.
The horrific attack, carried out by a relatively small number of militants from the Tehreek-e-Taliban, a Pakistani militant group trying to overthrow the government, also sent dozens of wounded flooding into local hospitals as terrified parents searched for their children.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the assault and rushed to Peshawar to show his support for the victims.
Nobel peace laureate Malala Yousafzai, 17, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for insisting girls had a right to an education, said she was “heartbroken” by “the senseless and cold blooded” killing.
Tahir Ali, arriving at the hospital to collect the body of his 14-year-old son Abdullah, said: “My son was in uniform in the morning. He is in a casket now. My son was my dream. My dream has been killed.”
The attack began in the morning on Tuesday, with six gunmen entering the school and shooting at random, police said. Army commandos quickly arrived at the scene and started exchanging fire with the gunmen. Students wearing their green school uniforms could be seen fleeing the area.
Outside the school, two loud booms of unknown origin were heard coming from the scene in the early afternoon, as Pakistani troops battled with the attackers.
Hospital officials said at least one teacher and a paramilitary soldier were among the dead.
The prime minister vowed that the country would not be cowed by the violence and that the military would continue with an aggressive operation launched in June in the North Waziristan tribal area to rout militants.
“The fight will continue. No one should have any doubt about it,” Sharif said.
On Tuesday night, the Pakistani military said all six gunmen had been killed, and that operations were “closing up”, but bombs planted by the terrorists were hampering the speed of the clearance.
A student who escaped said that at one point, about 200 students were being held hostage.
The school is located on the edge of a military cantonment in Peshawar, but the bulk of the students are civilian.
Taliban spokesman Mohammed Khurasani claimed responsibility for the attack, saying six suicide bombers had carried out the attack in revenge for the killings of Taliban members at the hands of Pakistani authorities.
This appeared to be the worst attack in Pakistan since the 2008 suicide bombing in the port city of Karachi killed 150 people.