The Pakistan military on Thursday said the terrorists behind the tragic attack on the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar have been taken into custody.
At a news conference in Rawalpindi, the chief military spokesman said nine out of 27 terrorists involved in the December 16 massacre had been killed while 12 others had been arrested, six each in Pakistan and Afghanistan. “Most of the 27 terrorists have been identified as Pakistani nationals,” Director General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj-Gen Asim Bajwa said.
Talking to reporters, the DG ISPR said the APS attack – which left over 150 people, most of them children, dead – was ordered by the fugitive chief of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Mullah Fazlullah. Fazlulllah, he added, selected Umar Amir to supervise the attack.
“Asif alias Haji Kamran was then made commander. He later formed two different groups to execute the plan,” the military spokesman revealed.
Maj-Gen Bajwa said six suicide bombers were selected for the APS attack. One of the facilitators, he said, included the imam of a mosque who hosted three of the attackers for a night near the targeted school. Other terrorists involved in the attack included commander Atiqur Rehman, Kaif Qari, Mudassir, Taj, Misbah, Hazrat Ali, Sabeel alias Yahya, Mujeebur Rehman, Saddam, Khurshid and Jabbani.
“The main culprits, including Mullah Fazlullah and Umar Amir, are still hiding in Afghanistan,” he added.
The DG ISPR said killing Mullah Fazlullah or repatriating him to Pakistan if he was captured alive is Islamabad’s ‘number one demand’. “This point is being raised in every meeting [with Afghan authorities].”
He added that they had received a response on the matter from across the border and were ‘optimistic and hopeful’.
Bajwa said coordination with the Afghan government had improved in recent months. He thanked the Afghan government for eliminating communication gaps.
“The terrorists were initially taking advantage of the communication gap,” he said. “Now the coordination has improved.”
According to the DG ISPR, the busted terrorist gang was linked to several other major terrorist incidents, including the Peshawar Meena Bazaar, Rawalpindi and Tarnol attacks.
Giving an update on Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the chief military spokesperson said most of the areas in North Waziristan have been cleared of terrorists and the repatriation of temporarily displaced persons (TDPs) would begin in March.
He said over 2,000 terrorists have been killed in operations Zarb-e-Azb and Khyber-I and 226 soldiers had been martyred. Asked about the involvement of external hands in fomenting militancy in the country, Bajwa said “it is a known fact that India has been involved in Pakistan’s affairs, be it ceasefire violations along the Line of Control or providing support to TTP or separatists in Balochistan.”
Reacting to the statement of a former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief that the agency probably knew Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts, the DG ISPR said “It has been established beyond doubt that Pakistan had no role in harbouring the al Qaeda head.”
“Asad Durrani retired 30 years ago and does not represent the ISI. He does not have any intelligence or information,” Bajwa said about the ex-spymaster who gave the statement in a recent interview.
Commenting on the investigation report on the Baldia factory fire, the spokesman made it clear that the joint investigation team probing the case was not headed by any military official. He said the report was made public on the orders of the court. He insisted that ongoing operation in Karachi was being carried out without any discrimination and was not aimed at any political party.
7 ‘terrorists’ killed in Tirah air blitz
At least seven suspected terrorists were killed when jet fighters bombed their hideouts in Tirah Valley early morning on Thursday.
According to officials, at least eight suspected terrorist hideouts were destroyed in the air strikes, carried out as part of the ongoing operations to rid the Khyber and North Waziristan agencies of militancy. The hideouts, they said, harboured militants belonging to TTP and the banned Lashkar-e-Islam outfit.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2015.
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