Pakistani security forces have killed the alleged planner of a massacre that at a Peshawar school that left 148 people — most of them children — dead.
According to officials, the planner, known as Saddam, was killed last Thursday during a gun fight with security forces for the country. Acting on intelligence information, the forces raided the Bara area late Thursday night, starting an hour-long shootout with Saddam, which left the attacker dead and six others wounded.
“Commander Saddam was a dreaded terrorist, who was killed in an exchange of fire with the security forces in Jamrud town of Khyber tribal region,” top local administration official Shahab Ali Shah told a press conference in Peshawar. “Six of his accomplices were injured and arrested.”
On December 16, militants strapped explosives to themselves and entered the military-run school, killing 148 people, 132 of whom were schoolchildren, in what would become the deadliest terrorist attack by Pakistani militants since 2007.
While Saddam is believed to have planned the attack, the extent of his role is not yet known. “Authorities are currently interrogating the injured terrorists,” Shah said. Officials said he had provided housing for 7 of the militants before the attack, and helped guide them to the school, reports Tim Craig for The Washington Post.
The 25-year-old was known as an important member of the Pakistani Taliban, having been the mastermind behind several bomb attacks. He was also involved in the Taliban effort to attack health workers who had been giving polio vaccines to people in the Peshawar valley.
At the same time, a drone, believed to be from the US, fired missiles on two compounds in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region. The attack left at least seven alleged militants dead.
The compound of the Punjabi Taliban in the village of Kund, believed to have been used as a training facility by the Pakistani Taliban’s Tariq Gedar group’s commander, Qari Imran, was hit by two missiles, killing four militants. It is not known whether Imran was one of those killed in the attack.
In an effort to “wipe terror out of Pakistan,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spent much of Friday discussing how best to implement his new anti-terror policy with his cabinet.
“To me, zero tolerance is zero tolerance, and violence in any form against my people equals terror,” Sharif said. He vowed that Pakistan “shall come down heavy on it.”
The new plan would see the creation of military courts to try suspected terrorists and increase the execution process for prisoners found guilty of terrorism.
According to a senior official for the Interior Ministry, there are currently 6,777 residents in the country under surveillance for suspected terrorism, adding that mass arrests could be coming shortly. On Friday, 83 suspected terrorists were arrested in the country’s capital.