The “facilitator” of the massacre of 132 schoolchildren in Pakistan has been killed in a gun battle in the Khyber tribal areas of Pakistan. A Taliban commander, considered to be a planner or facilitator of the massacre, was killed Thursday night in a gun battle with Pakistani anti-terrorist forces in an hour-long engagement just north of Peshawar.
The commander, known as Saddam, and several surviving members of the group were wounded and captured by the Pakistan forces. Saddam is described as an important leader of the Taliban in Pakistan. He is suspected of being behind several bomb attacks as well as having been involved in recent attacks on Pakistani forces that had inflicted heavy casualties.
Shahab Ali Shah, the top local administrator, said, “Commander Saddam was a dreaded terrorist, who was killed in an exchange of fire with the security forces in the Jamrud town of Khyber tribal region.”
At a press conference, Shah said, “Six of his accomplices were injured and arrested.”
The exact degree of Saddam’s involvement in the school massacre was not known, although he reportedly facilitated or helped plan the attack. The six accomplices were being interrogated.
The December attack on the Peshawar Army Public School and Degree College left 132 children and 13 adults dead. Around 100 were wounded. Pakistani education minister Muhammad Baligh Ur Rehman said most of the dead were 12- to 16-years-old. The school served about 1,100 students and staff. Most of the children were sons and daughters of Pakistani army personnel from the area.
In the attack, a car exploded outside of the school, distracting security inside the school. With this diversion, the attackers came over the wall and overran the school, bursting into an auditorium and killing children indiscriminately.
CNN reports that a 14-year-old student, Ahmed Faraz, recalled hearing one of the attackers say, “A lot of children are under the benches. Kill them.”
Pakistani troops arrived, sweeping through the school one building at a time. When the firing stopped, seven attackers were dead. Pakistani authorities searched the school, looking for survivors and gathering the dead.
Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told CNN, “Even the children are dying on the frontline in the war against terror. The smaller the coffin, the heavier it is to carry…. It’s a very, very tragic day.”
This was not the first time that the Taliban targeted school children. Malala Yousafzai, who became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, was shot by the Taliban as she defied their ban on women attending school. The army-school attack, though, was certainly vicious and despicable in its scale.
Since the December attack at the army-run school, Pakistan has intensified its anti-terror efforts. Additionally, in the face of increasing public anger over the massacre, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced that Pakistan has set up military courts to deal with terrorism, and lifted the six-year moratorium on the death penalty as it might apply to terror cases. Additionally, Pakistan has announced that they will execute around 500 militants whose appeals have run out in the next few weeks.
The action against Saddam and his forces were not the only ones mounted against the Taliban. The Inquisitr reports that two separate drone strikes staged by American forces in Pakistan killed up to eight senior Taliban militants in the remote North Waziristan region around the same time as the action taken against the Taliban group who planned the Pakistan school massacre.