Bacha Khan University Shooting Update: Taliban Delivering Conflicting Statements Concerning ResponsibilityBy Russell Westerholm
The Taliban's Pakistan faction is speaking out on the attack on Bacha Khan University, but two spokesmen are giving two different stories.
According to CNN, Umar Mansoor claimed responsibility for the shooting Wednesday that left more than 20 students and faculty dead in addition to the four gunmen. The organizer of the army school shooting 13 months ago, Mansoor indicated the Bacha Khan shooting was retaliation for the Pakistani government new resolve to crack down on terrorism since then.
Also speaking on behalf of the Pakistan Taliban, Mohammad Khurrassani stated the group was not responsible for the Bacha Khan shooting.
Mansoor told Reuters the Taliban picked Bacha Khan because its strong ties to the Pakistan government and military. However, Khurrassani outright contradicted Mansoor's claim, even stating Bacha Khan's students should be protected.
"Youth who are studying in non-military institutions, we consider them as builders of the future nation and we consider their safety and protection our duty," read Khurrassani's statement.
The Pakistan Taliban confirmed its responsibility for the shooting to The Associated Press Wednesday morning, which has since been widely reported by several national news organizations. While CNN acknowledged the conflicting statements make it "unclear" if the Taliban really is responsible, the details and nature of the attack give a clear picture.
"We've seen consistent operations by the Taliban up in this area," CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd said. "I see this as simply as retaliatory, that is the Taliban saying, 'If you're going to bring Pakistani special forces and the army up into our turf, you're going pay a heavy price.'"
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is apparently among those looking past the Taliban's denial of the attack, The Washington Post noted. Following the Dec. 2014 attack, Pakistan lifted its moratorium on the death penalty and hanged four people for their involvement in that massacre.
Wednesday, Sharif called the attackers "cowards" and promised a "ruthless response."