United Nations: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday led the world body in condemning the "blood curdling" Taliban attack on "defenceless" children at an army-run school in Pakistan's Peshawar city, saying no cause can justify such brutality and horror.
Ban said the "hearts of the world go out" to the parents and families of those killed in the brazen attack.
"No cause can justify such brutality; no grievance can excuse such horror. It is an act of horror and rank cowardice to attack defenceless children while they learn," he said.
The UN chief said schools must be safe and secure learning spaces and getting an education is every child's right.
"Going to school should not have to be an act of bravery," he said as he urged the Pakistani government to make every effort to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice.
In the worst attack in Pakistan in years, Taliban militants stormed Army Public School on Warsak Road and went classroom-to-classroom shooting indiscriminately.
Nearly 140 people, mostly students in the first through 10th grades, were killed in the attack, which came as a retaliation to Pakistan military's campaign against the militants in the northern region of the country.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said the "horrific, callous" killing of children in Peshawar "must do more than shock the conscience of the world."
"It must also summon us, all the more, to support the parents of Pakistan who wish for their children the best possible education ?- and all those who are working to provide it," Lake said.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said Taliban "have sunk to an all-time depth with this attack," and called the attack "utterly despicable and incomprehensibly vicious."
"Everyone must now unite to combat this type of savage extremism. No government or intelligence agencies, no religious figures, no wealthy sponsors, no members of the general public can possibly justify continuing support for the Taliban, ISIL, Boko Haram, Al Qaida or any of these takfiri groups which appear to be competing to attain the highest level of human barbarity.
Hussein, the first Muslim and Arab to hold the rights
office, noted the statement of Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai -- herself a victim of a Taliban attack in Swat -- when she received her Nobel Prize last week.
Yousafzai had said she wished her generation would be "the last that sees empty class rooms, lost childhoods and wasted potentials."
During the Taliban occupation of Swat from 2007 to 2009, several hundred schools were closed or destroyed.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova expressed her outrage and distress following the attack.
Bokova said: "Less than a week after Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, this heinous attack is a crime against the future of all children and the nation of Pakistan."
"Terror will not silence the millions of voices around the world that are demanding education to be a right and for schools to be safe. We will not let fear nor terror have the upper hand," she said.
She expressed condolences to the families who lost their children and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.