25 January 2016

Pakistani Taliban Faction Vows to Hit More Universities and Schools

After Wednesday's deadly attack on a university campus that left at least 21 people dead, Omar Mansoor, commander of a Pakistani Taliban faction, vowed to target educational institutions across the country.
PESHAWAR, Pakistan—The Islamist militant group that claimed responsibility for a deadly attack at a Pakistani university this week has vowed to target other colleges and schools, which it said promote democratic governance instead of Muslim theocracy.
Omar Mansoor, leader of the Pakistani Taliban faction that struck Bacha Khan University in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, killing 21 people, said in a videotaped message posted on Facebook that the country’s people must “repent of polytheism and democracy.”
Terrorists from Mr. Mansoor’s faction killed more than 130 children in an attack on a Peshawar school a year ago, and his declaration could herald a new wave of jihadist violence in Pakistan, where the government has fought to suppress local militants.
The video included images of four men, posing with guns, identified in the clip as the assailants in the university attack who stormed the campus, shooting students with assault rifles. They were eventually killed by security forces.

A spokesman for the main branch of the Pakistani Taliban, Muhammad Khursani, condemned the attack, saying that students should be considered future jihadists. Mr. Mansoor, however, said universities and schools are “the foundation of Pakistan’s evil, democratic system.”
“These universities, these colleges, these schools: this is a system that has come from Britain and America, and it is made by humans,” Mr. Mansoor said. “We want to disrupt this system, destroy its foundation. We want to establish Allah’s system, and establish Allah’s rule.”
After the 2014 Peshawar school attack, authorities beefed up security at educational institutions around the country. The government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, home to Bacha Khan University, allowed teachers to carry guns on campus.
During Wednesday’s attack, Syed Hamid Hussain, a chemistry professor, fought back against the militants with a pistol, students said. Mr. Hussain was killed.

“He told us to run away from the building and that he would stay and hold them back,” said Azeem Ullah, 21 years old, a geology student who escaped unhurt. “We heard a lot of gunshots when he went inside.”
This still image taken from a video released by a faction of the Pakistani Taliban shows 
Operations by Pakistan’s armed forces over the past two years have reduced the total number of attacks in the country, but bloodshed like that at the university has reignited public fear, as militants go after soft targets.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday that the ability of terrorist groups to strike had been “considerably destroyed” by Pakistan’s military. “Our resolve to fight them is getting stronger every day.”
An increasing willingness by militants to aim at soft targets would pose a serious challenge.

“Now we will not kill the soldier in the cantonment, the lawyer in the court, and the politician in the senate and parliament, but where they are prepared,” Mr. Mansoor said in the video. “The school, the university, the college is their origin…We have resolved that we will kill them in these places.”

Pakistani officials believe Mr. Mansoor and other leaders of the Pakistani Taliban are based in Afghanistan. On Thursday, the Pakistani military said the university attack was orchestrated by militants based in Afghanistan, something dismissed by the Afghan government.

The Pakistani Taliban is a collection of militant factions operating primarily in the country’s north western tribal areas and across the border in eastern Afghanistan.

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