US drone strike kills Pakistan militant behind school attack

1 min 13Approximate reading time

A Pakistani Taliban militant wanted for his role in a school massacre has died in a US drone strike in Afghanistan, Pakistani and American military officials said Wednesday.

Umar Narai, also known as Umar Khalifa and Khalid Khurasani, died in Nangarhar province over the weekend, security officials from both countries said.

Narai "was killed along with four other enemy combatants in a US Forces-Afghanistan airstrike targeting Islamic State-Khorasan Province members," Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.

The United States designated the "Khorasan Province" -- an affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) group based in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- as a terrorist organization earlier this year.

US General John Nicholson called Pakistan's army chief General Raheel Sharif to confirm Narai's death, military spokesman Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa said on Twitter.

Pakistani officials said Narai died on Sunday, while the Pentagon said his death took place on Saturday.

Both said he was among those responsible for a Taliban attack at a school in the northwestern city of Peshawar in December 2014 that killed more than 150 people, most of them children.

Narai was also behind a deadly Taliban attack on Bacha Khan University in the northwestern town of Charsadda in January and another Taliban assault on a Peshawar air force base in September 2015, Cook said.

The attacks killed at least 21 and 29 people, respectively.

The drone strike that killed Narai "underscores the common security interests shared by the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan on matters of terrorism," Cook said.

"Only through continued cooperation will we collectively succeed in eliminating terrorist safe havens in the region."

Pakistan's Islamist insurgency began after the US-led invasion of neighboring Afghanistan in 2001 prompted militants to spill across the border and recruitment for Pakistani extremist groups to surge. 

The army launched Operation Zar-e-Azb under US pressure in 2014 in a bid to wipe out militant bases in the North Waziristan tribal area and bring an end to violence that has cost Pakistan thousands of lives.