The man responsible for the attack in Peshawar, Pakistan that killed 132 children has been identified as Umar Mansoor. To the country of Pakistan he is the mastermind behind the deadliest militant attack in the country’s history, but to people who know him he is “Slim,” a father of three who loves volleyball, writes Saud Mehsud for Reuters.
Mansoor justified the attack in a video posted by the Taliban:
“If our women and children die as martyrs, your children will not escape,” he said. “We will fight against you in such a style that you attack us and we will take revenge on innocents.”
The Taliban believes the school attack served proper retribution for the offensive tactics of the Pakistan army.
In response to the attack, the government has lifted the ban on the execution of convicted terrorists. This resulted in several arrests and the execution of six men, reports Zarar Khan for The Sydney Morning Herald. All of the men belonged to a local Pakistani militant group.
In addition, the Pakistani military killed 77 militants in the Khyber tribal region. 10 of the men were killed by ground forces, and another 17 by jets on Thursday night, among them included an Uzbek commander, writes NBC News. The remaining 32 terrorists were killed by security forces the following day in an ambush in Tirah valley.
During the school attack, which sparked this retaliation, a group of Taliban militants climbed the walls surrounding the Army Public School and Degree College, and killed 132 children, 10 of the schools staff, and three soldiers, according to Gen. Asim Bajwa. Over 100 people were injured, said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province information Minister Mushtaq Ghani.
Not counted in the death toll were the terrorists who attacked the school, rushed into the auditorium and began shooting students who were taking an exam. Sophia Saifi and Greg Botelho, reporting for CNN, wrote that the militants shouted “God is great,” and then, ” A lot of the children are under the benches,kill them.” They continued shooting randomly and took 300 to 400 people into custody, said Pakistani Taliban spokesman Mohammed Khurrassani, who is head of Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP). This was not a hostage situation, but a massacre.
Finally, Pakistani troops cornered the militants, who were seven in number, and killed them. Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said that the war against the Taliban would not stop nor would Pakistan “back off.” He said:
“Even the children are dying on the front-line in the war against terror. The smaller the coffin, the heavier it is to carry. … It’s a very, very tragic day.”
A car exploded behind the school in the early morning as a diversionary tactic. Fifteen minutes after the attack began, Pakistani security reached the school. When they arrived, children drenched in blood were lying on top of each other. Most of the dead were from 12 to 16-years-old, but one office assistant was shot and then burned, and the school’s principal was killed, as well.
The TTP, based in Peshawar, has forced its conservative version of Islam on Pakistan, attacking Pakistani troops as well as civilians. The ancient city of Peshawar has been targeted by militants often in response to Pakistani offensives. Most notably, the Taliban singled out and shot Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai on October 9, 2012, on her way to school.
Yousafzai was “heartbroken by this (latest) senseless and cold blooded act of terror in Peshawar,” saying Tuesday that “innocent children in their school have no place in horror such as this.”
“I call upon the international community, leaders in Pakistan, all political parties — everyone — (to) stand up together and fight against terrorism,” the 16-year-old added in another statement. “And we should make sure that every child gets a safe and quality education.”
The New York Times‘ Declan Walsh reports that the attack took place while parents, for eight hours, stood outside the school gates, listening to the shooting and the grenades, praying that their children would survive. Even the Afghan Taliban, which has been instrumental in creating an all-time high number of civilian casualties, tweeted that the attack was un-Islamic and wrote that they shared the pain of the victim’s families. This attack marked the end of a turbulent year in Pakistan. The polio virus spread through the country, coinciding with attacks on health workers, and political disagreements have all but closed major cities and the government.
Mushtaq Yusufzai, Wajahat S. Khan, F. Brinley Bruton, and Alastair Jamieson of NBC report that the Taliban militants were in suicide vests when they laid siege to the school. The attack may have been aimed at the children of senior military personnel.
“One of my teachers was crying, she was shot in the hand and she was crying in pain,” Shahrukh Khan, 15, who was shot in both legs but survived, told Reuters. “One terrorist then walked up to her and started shooting her until she stopped making any sound.
A child who survived said that his teacher was burned alive in front of the students in the classroom. The Pakistan government has declared three days of mourning for the lives lost. President Obama expresses his anger at the attack and added that America stands with the people of Pakistan and its government in its efforts to fight against terrorism.
“By targeting students and teachers in this heinous attack, terrorists have once again shown their depravity,” he said in a statement.
In an article by Naila Inayat, Shereena Qazi and John Bacon, for USA Today, the writers report that this attack was one of the most horrific in Pakistan since a 2007 suicide bombing in the port city of Karachi which killed 150 people. In Peshawar specifically, there was a twin suicide bomb blast in a church that killed at least 85 people. Pakistan’s Taliban spokesman Mohammed Umar Khorasanin described the attack as “a revenge attack” for an army offensive in North Waziristan in June against militants.
“This massacre represents a savage and qualitative escalation of the attacks by the Pakistani Taliban,” said Fawas Gerges, a professor at the London School of Economics’ Middle East Center. “This particular attack cannot be understood except as a direct attack against the Pakistani army, attacking the sons of officers who are attending the school.”