CONNECTICUT – Newtown and with it the United States continues to struggle with the tragedy that has gripped it over the weekend, as more and more information about the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre emerges.
The grief-stricken town is expected to bury 26 victims throughout Sunday, 20 of them children ages 6-7, who were gunned down during Adam Lanza's murderous rampage, Friday.
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Making a sadly familiar journey, President Barack Obama will attend an evening vigil in Newtown, to mourn with a town still seeking to comprehend the unimaginable massacre of its children and teachers.
Obama will visit privately with families of the victims and with emergency personnel who responded to the shootings. He will then speak at an interfaith vigil at Newtown High School.
World leaders offer condolences
The horrific shooting sent shockwaves the world over, prompting world leaders to express their horror of the event.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon wrote to Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy to give his "deepest condolences at the shocking murders," a statement said. "The targeting of children is heinous and unthinkable," he added.
Some of the victims (Photos: News agencies)
The head of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, spoke of his "deep shock and horror" upon hearing of the massacre.
"Young lives full of hope have been destroyed," he said in a statement.
"The news is just awful. The thoughts and prayers of Canadians are with the students and families in CT affected by this senseless violence," Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrote on his Twitter account.
US flag with victims' names (Photo: AFP)
Pope Benedict XVI sent the community a letter of condolence, which was read aloud at a vigil in Newtown Friday evening.
The pope "has asked me to convey his heartfelt grief and the assurance of his closeness in prayer to the victims and their families, and to all affected by the shocking event," Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone said in the letter.
British Premier David Cameron said he "was shocked and deeply saddened to hear about today's horrific shooting.
"My thoughts are with the injured and those who have lost loved ones. It is heartbreaking to think of those who have had their children robbed from them at such a young age, when they had so much life ahead of them."
Makeshift memorial in Newtown (Photo: AFP)
Queen Elizabeth II sent a message to President Barack Obama in which she said she was "deeply shocked and saddened" to hear of the shootings.
"The thoughts and prayers of everyone in the United Kingdom and throughout the Commonwealth are with the families and friends of those killed and with all those who have been affected by today's events."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the massacre had brought "indescribable grief to many families just before Christmas", adding: "I have a heavy heart thinking about the pupils and teachers who were killed."
'Incomprehensible act of evil' (Photo: Reuters)
French President Francois Hollande also extended his condolences in a message to Obama: "This news... horrified me and I wish to express my deep shock and consternation," Hollande said.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said: "Australia grieves with America today following the mass shooting of primary school children and teachers in Connecticut.
"Like President Obama and his fellow Americans, our hearts too are broken. We share America's shock at this senseless and incomprehensible act of evil."
Even longtime foe Iran offered its condolences to the victims and families. Foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast drew parallels between the school shooting and the "children and teenagers who fall victim to armed actions... inside Gaza, the US, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran or Syria," calling on Americans to mobilize against "warmongering and the massacre of innocent people anywhere."
AFP contributed to this report
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