By Aamir Latif
A key Taliban commander and suspected mastermind of the school carnage in northern Peshawar city that left over 140 people, mostly children dead in 2014, has been killed in a U.S. drone strike, the militant group announced Wednesday.
In a statement, Mohammad Khurrasani, a purported spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban -- known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) -- confirmed the death of Umar Mansoor along the Pak-Afghan border.
According to multiple media reports, Umar was killed on Tuesday in a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan’s northeastern Paktika province.
Mansoor was said to be the armed group’s commander for Peshawar and adjoining Darra Adamkehl tribal region.
He is said to be main terrorist responsible for planning the attack on the Army Public School where children of many military personnel study. Apart from slaughtering students in their classrooms, the group of heavily-armed attackers also killed teachers.
Ajoon Khan, president of the Army Public School’s victims association, welcomed the news.
“If this is true, this is a big news for us,” Khan whose son Asfand Khan, a grade 10 student, was among the students killed in the gruesome attack, told Anadolu Agency.
“We welcome this news because he [Umar Mansoor] was also involved in the terrorist attack, which deprived us of our children,” he said, adding: “It will heal our wounds.”
The slain mastermind was reported to be killed in 2016 as well but this is the first time that the militant group has confirmed his death.
An army spokesman declined to comment on reports of his death when approached.
Meanwhile, the TTP named Usman Mansoor -- a figure about whom very little is known -- as the successor of the group.
Over 30 suspected militants have been killed in an ongoing military onslaught by U.S. and Afghan forces in northeastern Afghanistan in the last three days.
Some media reports based on Pakistani intelligence agency sources said the head of another TTP faction -- Omar Khalid Khorasani of the Jamaatul Ahrar -- was also killed in the recent drone strikes in Afghanistan. However, neither the splinter group nor the Pakistani army officially confirmed the development.
The death of key Pakistani Taliban figures is seen as a significant improvement in otherwise fraught ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan following a recent visit of Pakistani Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa to Afghan capital Kabul.
On Tuesday, Pakistani army in statement said coordination between the two forces had enhanced.