The tragic massacre of 132 children and nine school staff member in Peshawar on Tuesday was masterminded by a 36-year-old father of three, it has emerged.
Umar Mansoor, nicknamed "Slim", planned the brutal attack in which gunmen wearing suicide-bomb vests storm the Army Public School close to the Afghan border. He took responsibility for the slaughter in a video posted online yesterday.
In the footage, a man with a chest-length beard who is identified as Umar Mansoor, addresses the viewer and attempts to justify the deadliest militant attack in Pakistan’s turbulent history, which stunned the country and brought cries for retribution.
“If our women and children die as martyrs, your children will not escape,” he says.
“We will fight against you in such a style that you attack us and we will take revenge on innocents," he adds.
He is described in the video as the leader of the Taliban in Peshawar and nearby Darra Adam Khel.
Six members of the Pakistani Taliban interviewed by Reuters confirmed that Mansoor organised the attack. Four of them also said he is close to Mullah Fazlullah, the embattled leader of the fractious group who ordered assassins to kill schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai.
The men said that Mansoor “strictly follows the principles of jihad” but is “popular among the junior” because he is “very kind” and they admire his “bravery and boldness”.
Mansoor was educated at a school in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, before he attended a madrasa, or religious school.
He and his two brothers then worked in the city of Karachi as labourers, before they joined the Pakistani Taliban soon after it was formed in late 2007.
Mansoor now has three children - two daughters and a son - and is known by his nickname Nary, meaning “slim” in Pashto, the members said.
He is also an enthusiastic volleyball player, and sets up a net “where he shifts his office”, said a Taliban member.
“Umar Mansoor had a tough mind from a very young age, he was always in fights with other boys,” said another Taliban member.
“He was very strict from the start when he joined,” a commander said. “He left many commanders behind if they had a soft corner (of their heart) for the government.”
Mansoor deeply opposes talks with the government, the commanders said.
The Pakistani Taliban has said the attack was in retaliation for a military offensive carried out by the Pakistani army, and what they claim to be extrajudicial killings.
The group’s previous accusations have led to court cases where authorities hear of how men disappeared from the custody of security services, and some bodies have been found later, hands bound behind the back and shot in the head, or dismembered and stuffed into sacks.
But some security officials say privately the courts are so corrupt and afraid, it is almost impossible to convict militants.
In the wake of the attacks, several other militant groups, many of which have slaughtered civilians themselves, have joined in a nationwide condemnation.
The Afghan Taliban, a group the Pakistani jihadists idolise, were the first of the Sunni Islamist armed groups to denounce the school attack as un-Islamic, followed by the powerful splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar.
Pakistan’s military has responded to the massacre by killing at least 77 militants in a norther-western Khyber tribal region, which borders Peshawar and where the military has been trying to root out fighters in recent months.
The military said the army chief, General Raheel Sharif, was travelling to Khyber to meet troops taking part in the ground operation.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday announced that he would lift a moratorium on executions in terrorism-related cases. The government has not yet carried out any executions.
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