Pakistan says it has killed the alleged mastermind of a school attack in Peshawar that claimed the lives of 132 children.
Pakistani troops have killed the Taliban leader who planned the massacre of 132 children at a Peshawar school earlier this month, a senior government official claimed.
Saddam Jan, commander of one of the most militant Taliban factions waging war against Pakistan, was killed on Christmas Day in a shoot out with army forces in Khyber agency, a remote tribal area close to the Afghanistan border.
Shahab Ali Shah, a local government official, said Jan “was responsible for facilitating the massacre at the Army Public School and College”.
“He was the mastermind of several attacks carried out throughout the country. We had credible reports that he facilitated the Peshawar school attack,” he said.
He added: “He was killed by security forces in Jamrud Tehsil late on Thursday night.” Another six militants were arrested during the raid.
Analysts said his killing was a major setback to the Tehrik-e-Taliban alliance because Jan was one its few commanders still mounting regular attacks on the country’s government and military.
He was killed in Gundi, Jamrud, as part of an intensification of anti-Taliban operations by the Pakistan Army following the massacre at Peshawar’s Army Public School on December 16th in which 148 were killed, including 132 pupils.
The deliberate targeting of children by seven Taliban gunmen was greeted with horror throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan where both Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders denounced it as “un-Islamic”.
Since then the government has ended its moratorium on capital punishment and executed six convicted terrorists as part of a renewed campaign against terrorist groups.
It has announced new military courts to fast-track trials of terrorist suspects and new curbs on madrassa seminaries, which have been blamed for encouraging students to join terrorist groups.
The Peshawar school massacre is believed to have been ordered by Umar Mansoor on behalf of Maulana Fazlullah, the Tehrik-e-Taliban’s top leader.
But according to Pakistani officials the planning of the operation was carried out by Saddam Jan, the leader of the umbrella group’s Tariq Gedar faction.
He was also said to be the mastermind behind the 2013 attack on a team of polio immunization workers in which 11 security personnl were killed and an attack which killed eight government paramilitary Scouts and several tribal elders.
Brigadier (retired) Mahmood Shah, a former head of security in the lawless tribal areas, said that Saddam Jan’s death was a serious blow to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan when it was already facing an Army onslaught.
“Saddam, a commander of the Darra Adam Khel chapter of the TTP was a significant man because he had been fighting the security forces at a time when most Taliban have gone into hibernation”, he said.
Jan had attacked Army personnel and members of the Lashkar Islam militant group which opposes the Taliban, he added.
Last week Army forces killed seven militants including the brother of Taliban commander Umar Mansoor who ordered the Peshawar school massacre.
Last year, the security forces had killed Tariq Afridi, a previous TTP commander in Darra Adam Khel and also killed his successor Jangreiz Khan shortly after.
“Taliban are on the run and losing important commanders is a sign that they are getting weaker and weaker”, Mr Shah said.
Talat Khan, another security analyst, said that the Army offensive in the area and revulsion over the massacre of children in Peshawar had prevented Taliban fighters finding sanctuary among local people.
“The TTP’s attack on the Army Public School has enraged and saddened the people due to which they do not want to provide sanctuaries to the TTP’s men”, he said.