A suicide assault team from a faction of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan launched an attack on a university in the country’s northwest today, killing more than 20 students and faculty before security forces intervened to end the siege. The attack was claimed by a dangerous Taliban commander who plotted the assault on a military school in Peshawar as well as an airbase near the same city over the past two years.
Four jihadists dressed in military uniforms and armed with AK-47 assault rifles and suicide vests attacked Bacha Khan University in the northwestern district of Charsadda earlier today, Dawn reported. The jihadists indiscriminately opened fire on students, teachers, and security guards alike. Pakistani soldiers and police deployed to the university and engaged the gunmen, killing all four before they could detonate their vests.
The attack was claimed by Khalifa Umar Mansour, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s leader for Peshawar and Darra Adam Khel. According to Dawn, Mansour published a claim of responsibility on his Facebook page (the page is no longer available).
Mansour is best known for the brutal December 2014 attack on a military high school in Peshawar that killed more than 120 people, mostly students. He also is responsible for the September 2015 suicide assault on the Pakistani Air Force camp in Badabair. Mansour, who is also known as Umar Narey, has been featured in Taliban propaganda in the past.
Mohammad Khorasani, the official spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s emir, Mullah Fazlullah, “condemned the attack, terming it ‘against Shariah,'” Dawn reported. Khorasani said the attack was “against sharia,” or Islamic law, presumably because civilians were directly targeted. Khorasani also was critical of Mansour’s December 2014 assault on the military school in Peshawar; he said that the students were not to be targeted.
Khorasani’s criticism of Mansour is understandable as the assault on the Peshawar military academy in December 2014 brought the wrath of the Pakistan military down on the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. The military, which pushed off US and Western requests to target jihadists based in North Waziristan for more than a decade, launched an operation in that tribal agency that targeted the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and some allied group. But the military, despite claims to the contrary, did not target so-called “good Taliban” factions such as the Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group. These two Taliban factions are considered by powerful military and intelligence factions to be assets to the Pakistan government as they serve as a bulwark against Indian influence in Afghanistan.
The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan remains a potent threat to the government despite multiple military offensives against the group throughout the northwest since 2007. While the Pakistani military has targeted the group in different districts, the Pakistani Taliban moves to other areas and receives the support of the “good Taliban” factions to continue operations. Additionally, Pakistani Taliban fighters routinely slip across the border into lawless areas of eastern Afghanistan to escape limited military offensives.