US kills Pakistani Taliban commander behind attacks on schools


Khalifa Umar Mansour, who leads the Tariq Gidar Group (TGG), as seen in Taliban propaganda. Image from Dawn.

The US killed Khalifa Umar Mansour, the commander of the Tariq Gidar Group (TGG) who was responsible for attacks on Pakistani schools, in an airstrike in Afghanistan. The US listed the Tariq Gidar Group as a terrorist organization less than two months ago.

News of Mansour’s death was released by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations directorate, or ISPR.

“Commander Resolute support Mission called #COAS [Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif], confirmed death of terrorist Umar Narai alias Khalifa Umar, also alias Khalid Khurasani through drone strike in Afghanistan,” the ISPR posted on its official website. General Asim Bajwa, the head of the ISPR, tweeted a similar statement on his official Twitter account.

The exact date and location of the airstrike that killed Mansour was not disclosed. He is thought to have operated in the eastern Afghan provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar.

Pakistan often accuses Afghanistan of sheltering commanders from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (TTP). The US has killed several TTP leaders in airstrikes inside Afghanistan. However, the TTP operates in areas that are out of the control of the Afghan government.

Mansour led the TTP’s forces in the districts of Peshawar and Darra Adam Khel. He is responsible for numerous deadly assaults in Pakistan’s northwest.

He is best known for two brutal attacks on schools in northwestern Pakistan: the December 2014 attack on a military high school in Peshawar that killed more than 141 people, mostly students; and the January 2016 suicide assault on a university in Charsadda that killed more than 20 students and faculty.

Mansour gloated about the 2014 Peshawar assault in a videotape released by the TTP. The attack galvanized the Pakistani military to ferret out the TTP in Pakistan’s lawless tribal agency of North Waziristan. While the military targeted the TTP and other groups that attack the state, it left groups such as the Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group unscathed. These groups do not advocate attacks against the Pakistani state, but still provide shelter and support for the TTP and groups such as al Qaeda.

He also is responsible for the September 2015 suicide assault on the Pakistani Air Force camp in Badabair.

Mansour’s Tariq Gidar Group was listed by the US State Department as a terrorist organization on May 23, 2016.

According to State, the TGG was responsible for “the 2008 kidnapping and beheading of Polish geologist Piotr Stanczak in Attock, Pakistan.” According to reports, a Taliban commander known as Zakir Mehsud was responsible for kidnapping Stanczak. Fighters loyal to Qari Hussain Mehsud, the former head of the TTP’s suicide teams, beheaded Stanczak. [See LWJ report, Taliban feud over murder of Polish hostage.]

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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