PESHAWAR -- The death of the mastermind of the December 2014 Army Public School (APS) massacre in Peshawar has brought a sense of closure and relief to the families of the young victims.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) attack on December 16, 2014, left 122 children and 22 educators dead.
Previously unknown, Khalifa Umar Mansoor, alias Umar Naray, first appeared as a major TTP commander when he claimed responsibility in a video.
Retribution came on July 9, when Mansoor and four "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants were killed in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.
Pakistani army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa confirmed Mansoor's death in a July 13 tweet.
Mansoor took responsibility for other atrocities. They included a terrorist attack on a Pakistani air force base in Badhaber, Peshawar, last September, which killed 29 people, as well as the attack in January on Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), in which 18 students and faculty members lost their lives.
Mansoor was called Naray (slim) because of his thinness, a TTP commander based in Mohmand Agency told Central Asia Online, adding that Mansoor was in his late 30's.
The four terrorists who died with Mansoor included Qari Saifullah, a trainer of suicide bombers, and Malang, an ISIL commander, Pakistani military sources told Central Asia Online.
Mansoor and Saifullah belonged to a TTP faction that operated mostly in Peshawar and Dara Adamkhel, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). They fled to Afghanistan after the Pakistani army launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan in June 2014.
The families of Mansoor's victims are breathing a sigh of relief after hearing of his death, while Pakistani security analysts are celebrating a major blow to the TTP.
"We wept again today, but it's a day of justice for those parents who had lost their loved ones," said Tufail Khattak, the father of APS martyr Sher Shah, who was 16. "Today the ruthless killer is dead."
"It's a day of divine justice for the innocent students who were martyred by the terrorists mercilessly, including my son," he told Central Asia Online.
"Neither Umar Naray nor anyone else achieved anything from this massacre; the parents and the students are ... proud of their sacrifices," he said.
"Umar and other terrorists have not done any service to Islam but will today appear before Allah Almighty to answer for their misdeeds," he said.
"It's a big day. We think our children will be comfortable in their graves as they have seen the killers meet divine justice today," said Ajoon Khan, the father of Asfand Khan, a 10th-grader killed at APS.
Ajoon is the general secretary of the Shuhada Foundation, an association comprised of parents of APS martyrs who have called on officials to punish the terrorists and facilitators responsible for killing their children.
"Everyone is jubilant to hear the news about the death of the mastermind of the APS attack, but we want other culprits and their facilitators to be brought to justice," he told Central Asia Online.
"We are very happy, but we will be relieved once all terrorists and their silent supporters are publicly punished to make them a lesson to the world," Hasnain, whose son Hanzala was injured, told Central Asia Online.
The elimination of Mansoor and Saifullah, two key operational commanders loyal to TTP leader Mullah Fazlullah, is a great victory in the war on terror and it has broken the operational and supply wing of the terror network, analysts say.
"Umar Naray's death is very important -- now the focus will be on eliminating the two remaining commanders, Mullah Fazlullah and Umar Khalid Khurrasani of Jamatul Ahrar [a TTP splinter group], who are also based in Afghanistan," Peshawar-based security analyst Brig. (ret.) Muhammad Saad told Central Asia Online.
Mansoor's death will boost Islamabad's counter-terrorism efforts and will bring relief to the Pakistani nation, Saad said.
That said, lower-tier leaders quickly replace their dead commanders in guerrilla warfare, Saad said.
For that reason, Pakistan and Afghanistan need to exert collective efforts and launch a long-term strategy to neutralise militants, he said, suggesting economic development and administrative control over the ungoverned areas along the Pakistani-Afghan border.
Mansoor was the main planner of most TTP attacks, Peshawar-based Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah, former security secretary for FATA, said, calling Mansoor's death a severe blow to TTP planning.
"Umar Naray and Qari Saifullah’s deaths will neutralise the terrorists' network and will mean an operational death of the network," he told Central Asia Online.
Mansoor's name had become associated with terror, Pervaiz Iqbal Tareen, a scholar of Afghan and Central Asian affairs at the University of Peshawar Area Study Centre, said.
"His death will not only weaken terrorists' operations," he told Central Asia Online. "It is a psychological victory in the war on terror and a message that every terrorist will have to meet the same end, sooner or later."
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