Taliban gunmen have killed 141 people, including at least 132 children, in a school attack in Peshawar, Pakistan.
Nine Muslims stormed the army-run school while around 500 children and teachers were believed to be inside, with many students taking exams at the time.
At least 122 people are thought to have been injured in the siege, most in the first few hours of the attack as the gunman fired bullets indiscriminately at pupils and teachers.
A local hospital said the dead and injured were aged from 10 to 20 years old.
“One of my teachers was crying, she was shot in the hand and she was crying in pain,” Shahrukh Khan, 15, who was shot in both legs, said.
“One terrorist then walked up to her and started shooting her until she stopped making any sound. All around me my friends were lying injured and dead.”
Teachers and pupils were held hostage by the Tehreek-e-Taliban gunmen before the army stormed the building in a bid to end a battle which raged for almost nine hours.
As darkness fell, a military source said “the operation is complete,” adding that all nine militants were dead.
Local media reported that the men managed to slip past the school’s tight security because they were wearing Pakistani military uniforms.
The Taliban said the militants were equipped with suicide vests and there were fears of more casualties when three explosions were heard inside the school.
“We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females,” said Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani.
“We want them to feel our pain.”
Police struggled to hold back distraught parents trying to break past a cordon and get to the school as the loud explosions went off inside.
“My son was in uniform in the morning. He is in a casket now,” wailed one parent, Tahir Ali, as he came to the hospital to collect the body of his 14-year-old son Abdullah. “My son was my dream. My dream has been killed.”
Video and photos showed other young children in their green uniforms being led away from the school by soldiers and an army helicopter flying overhead.
A school bus driver said: “We were standing outside the school and firing suddenly started and there was chaos everywhere and the screams of children and teachers.”
The school is located on the edge of a military cantonment in Peshawar, but the majority of the students are civilian.
One of the wounded students, Abdullah Jamal, said that he was with a group of 8th, 9th and 10th graders who were getting first-aid instructions and training with a team of Pakistani army medics when the violence began for real.
When the shooting started, Abdullah, who was shot in the leg, said nobody knew what was going on in the first few seconds.
“Then I saw children falling down who were crying and screaming. I also fell down. I learned later that I have got a bullet,” he said, speaking from his hospital bed.
“All the children had bullet wounds. All the children were bleeding,” Abdullah added.
Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who has arrived in the area, called the massacre a “national tragedy”.
Education campaigner and Nobel peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who left Pakistan after being shot by the Taliban, said: “I am heartbroken by this senseless and cold-blooded act of terror in Peshawar that is unfolding before us.”
The 17-year-old said she and millions of others “mourn these children, my brothers and sisters but we will never be defeated”.
British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the attack and called it “deeply shocking”.
“It’s horrifying that children are being killed simply for going to school,” he said.