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Pakistani Taliban Commander Warns More Schools Will Be Targeted

Commander Umar Mansoor has again claimed his men were behind the deadly university attack on Wednesday, but the Pakistani Taliban's official spokesman insists the group did not carry it out.

by VICE News and Reuters
Jan 22 2016, 11:33am

Photo by Shahzaib Akber/EPA

A senior Pakistani Taliban commander has warned that the group plans to target more schools following the killing of 20 people during an attack on a university in Pakistan's northwest on Wednesday — though the rebels' official spokesman insists the group was not responsible.

Umar Mansoor, a faction commander, also released video footage on Friday of four fighters he said carried out the attack, in a declaration that raised fresh questions of a possible split in the fractured Pakistani Taliban (TTP) leadership.

Militants scaled the walls of Bacha Khan University in Charsadda on Wednesday morning and killed 20 people before being gunned down by army commandos and police.

Mansoor is the de facto operational head of the TTP in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where Charsadda in located, reported Pakistani newspaper Dawn. He told Reuters his fighters had targeted the campus because it prepared students to join the government and army.

Related: Pakistani Militants Launch Deadly Attack on University

But the same day, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Khorasani issued a written statement disassociating the group from the attack and calling it un-Islamic.

"We consider these youth studying in non-military educational institutes as our future, they are Muslims and their protection is our responsibility," he stated. "Those people who used the name of the Taliban in the attack will be tried in sharia courts."

Mansoor is considered close to Mullah Fazlullah, the embattled leader of the fractious Pakistan Taliban group.

The reason for the conflicting claims by the official spokesman and Mansoor was not immediately clear but has led to speculation of a possible split in the Taliban leadership.

"Now we will not kill the soldier in his cantonment, the lawyer in the court or the politician in parliament but in the places where they are prepared, the schools, the universities, the colleges that lay their foundation," a bearded Mansoor said in the video, holding an admonishing finger aloft.

"With the mercy of god, our attacks on all universities and schools will continue."

The video also shows four attackers, two of them in their mid-teens, practicing shooting as part of their training before carrying out the Charsadda attack.

Pakistan has killed and arrested hundreds of suspected militants under a major crackdown launched after Taliban gunmen massacred 134 children at a military-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar in December 2014. Mansoor was also said to have masterminded that attack.

The Peshawar school attack was seen as having hardened Pakistan's resolve to fight militants along its border with Afghanistan.

The Pakistani Taliban is fighting to topple the government and install a strict interpretation of Islamic law. They are loosely allied with the Afghan Taliban who ruled most of Afghanistan until they were overthrown by US-backed military action in 2001. 

Watch the VICE News documentary: Life After the Massacre: Terror in Peshawar:

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