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US commander confirms APS massacre mastermind killed

By Ismail Khan 2016-07-14
PESHAWAR: The United States informed Pakistan on Wednesday that the mastermind of the Peshawar school carnage had been killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan.

A brief statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations said that the Commander of the Resolute Support Mission General John Nicholson called Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif and confirmed the death of `terrorist Umar Naray alias Khalifa Umar alias Khalid Khurasani` in Afghanistan.

Umar Naray masterminded the Dec 16, 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar which left 122 students and 22 teachers and staff dead.

He was not the first leader of the outlawed TehreeleiTaliban Pakistan who was targeted in a US drone strike.

In November 2013, then TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud was targeted in a drone attack in North Waziristan. Prior to him, Baitullah Mehsud, who founded the notorious TTP,was also killed in a US drone strike in August 2009 in South Waziristan.

But both Mehsuds had been considered as a serious threat to the security of the US as they also operated in Afghanistan. Hakimullah had masterminded the December 2009 Camp Chapman attack in Afghanistan that left seven CIA agents dead.

While Umar Naray fled to Afghanistan following a military operation in Khyber tribal region, he did not target the Afghan or US forces and continued to only operate in Pakistan.

He was not considered as a threat to the US until itdeclared him a `global terrorist` on May 25 four days after the US targeted Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a drone strike in Balochistan.

In fact, this is the first time that the US has taken out a leader of Pakistani Taliban who was not operating across the border, suggesting a strategic shift in American policy.

The formal confirmation by the US top military man in Afghanistan to Gen Raheel regarding the killing of Umar Naray also strengthened the view that the US and Pakistan have reached a new level of understanding.

Umar Naray was held responsible for the Sept 2015 attack on a Pakistan Air Force base in Peshawar`s Badaber area in which 29 people were killed.

He was also behind the Jan 2016 attack on Bacha Khan University in Charsadda in which 18 students and faculty members lost their lives.

According to Pakistan security officials, he was killed on July 9 in a US drone attack in the Bandar area of Afghanistan`s Nangarhar province.