PESHAWAR: The mastermind of the Army Public School massacre, responsible for the death of 144 students and staff members, has been killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan, two senior security officials claim.
Also read: Who is Taliban commander Umar Mansoor?
They told Dawn that Umar Mansour, alias Khalifa Mansour, alias Umar Naray, had been killed, along with another militant leader Qari Saifullah, in the US drone attack in the Bandar area of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province on Saturday.
One of the officials said they had credible reports of Mansour having been killed with Saifullah, who was in charge of suicide bombers. “What we have is pretty credible.”
Security officials claim Umar Mansour eliminated along with Qari Saifullah
There was, however, some confusion over the death of Qari Saifullah. While one official said there were 90 per cent chances that he too had been killed along with Naray, another official said they were still trying to figure out whether he was there on the spot when the drone struck.
The US State Department had on May 25 designated Umar Naray a global terrorist, thus clearing the path for his inclusion in the hit-list. The State Department’s announcement came four days after a drone strike killed Afghan Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour in Balochistan on May 21. A security official at the time had denied there was any quid pro quo between the two countries.
There is neither any official confirmation from the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) nor any independent source corroborates Naray’s death. However, if true, his death would serve a severe blow to the TTP.
Naray, because of his violent and back-to-back major terrorist attacks, was being regarded by Pakistani security agencies as a major threat.
“The focus would now be on getting Abdul Wali, alias Omar Khalid Khurasani, and Maulvi Fazlullah, also believed to be in Afghanistan,” the officials said, adding that Pakistan had shared intelligence and coordinated with Afghanistan, and while Kabul did not deny their presence on its soil, they nonetheless cited operational issues to go after them.
Khurasani is operating in Peshawar and Mohmand and is believed to be the main character involved in extortion and targeted killings in the provincial capital and the tribal region.
Fazlullah, on the other hand, is mostly focused on his native Swat.
Umar Naray was mastermind of the Dec 16, 2014, attack on the Army Public School which had left 122 students and 22 teachers and staff dead. It was one of the worst terrorist attacks which prompted the government to declare an all-out war against terrorist outfits in the country.
The two militant commanders belonged to TTP’s Tariq Geedar group and used to operate in Peshawar and adjoining Frontier Region Peshawar and Darra Adamkhel.
Mansour had fled to Afghanistan following a military operation in Khyber tribal region and continued to operate from there. He was held responsible for the Sept 2015 attack on a Pakistan Air Force base in Peshawar’s Badaber area, which left 29 people dead. He was also behind the Jan 2016 attack on the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda in which 18 students and faculty members lost their lives.
Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2016