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US airstrike kills mastermind of Peshawar school attack


Washington: A top Pakistani Taliban militant leader, the mastermind of the Bachha Khan university attack and Peshawar school massacre that left around 150 people dead, has been killed along with four other associates in a US airstrike in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has confirmed.

Umar Khalifa, a known terrorist leader with the Tariq Gidar Group, was killed in Nangarhar province over the weekend, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said yesterday.

“On July 9 Umar Khalifa was killed along with four other enemy combatants in a US Forces-Afghanistan airstrike targeting Islamic State – Khorasan Province members in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan,” Cook said.

Khalifa, also known as Umar Narai, orchestrated multiple terrorist operations in Pakistan including the January 2016 attack on Bacha Khan University, the September 2015 Badaber Air Force Base attack and the December 2014 Peshawar school attack that resulted in the deaths of about 150 people, mostly children, he said.

“While this strike was taken pursuant to US rules of engagement and counter-terrorism interests, the specific relevance it has to Pakistan and Afghanistan’s security underscores the common security interests shared by the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan on matters of terrorism,” Cook said.

The US maintains a robust counter-terrorism partnership with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We recognise the sacrifices made on behalf of our respective militaries to pursue terrorists for the sake of regional peace and security. Only through continued cooperation will we collectively succeed in eliminating terrorist safe havens in the region,” Cook said.

“In this regard we also recognise the importance of Pakistan’s chief of army staff’s recent directive to all commanders, intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies to take concrete measures against those who would attack Afghanistan,” Cook said.

The US State Department had on May 25 designated Umar as a global terrorist, clearing the path for his inclusion in its hit-list.

Today’s confirmation has come days after Pakistani security officials said the killing of Umar who because of his violent and major terrorist attacks was regarded by Pakistani security agencies as a major threat.

Umar and his associates had shifted to Afghanistan due to Zarb-e-Azb military operation launched by Pakistani army in June 2014.

The US designated the “Khorasan Province” – an affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) group based in Afghanistan and Pakistan – as a terrorist organisation earlier this year.

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