The Taliban faction behind a massacre at a university in northwest Pakistan this week issued a video message Friday vowing to target schools throughout the country, calling them "nurseries" for people who challenge Allah's law.
The video, which spread rapidly on Facebook but was not released on official media accounts for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistani (TTP), shows Khalifa Umar Mansoor, whose faction claimed responsibility for the attack on Bacha Khan university Wednesday.
Heavily armed gunmen stormed the campus in Charsadda in northwest Pakistan, killing 21 people in an attack that had chilling echoes of a 2014 assault on a school in nearby Peshawar, also claimed by Mansoor's faction.
The rampage threatened to shatter the sense of security growing in the troubled region a year after the Peshawar attack, which left more than 150 people dead - mostly children.
In the video issued Friday, Mansoor said his faction had attacked the university "because this is the place where lawyers are made, this is the place that produces military officers, this is the place that produces members of the parliament, all of whom challenge Allah's sovereignty".
Flanked by armed extremists wearing masks, he said that instead of targeting professional soldiers, "we will target the nurseries that produce these people".
"We will continue to attack schools, colleges and universities across Pakistan as these are the foundations that produce apostates. We will target and demolish the foundations," he said.
|We will continue to attack schools, colleges and universities across Pakistan as these are the foundations that produce apostates. We will target and demolish the foundations
- Pakistani Taliban commander makes new threats
Another commander confirmed the release of the video.
Mansoor issued a similar video in the wake of the Peshawar attack on December 16, 2014, Pakistan's deadliest ever extremist assault.
He said schools like the one in Peshawar, which is some 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Charsadda, were "preparing those generals, brigadiers and majors who killed and arrested so many fighters".
"If our women and children died as martyrs your children will not escape. If you attack us we will take revenge for the innocents," he said in the video message, also posted online.
'Failing to keep children safe'
Security forces were still deployed in Charsadda Friday, while in Peshawar, two policemen were shot dead at a checkpoint by unknown gunmen.
Analysts have said the Taliban sent a message of impunity with Wednesday's attack, that a national crackdown on extremism has failed and they can hit targets at will.
They are targeting schools because the killing of young people "brings a lot of pain, despondency and hopelessness", Peshawar-based senior analyst and retired brigadier Saad Khan told AFP this week.
|They are targeting schools because the killing of young people brings a lot of pain, despondency and hopelessness|
Defence and security analyst Talat Masood agreed.
"This is the same pattern. They are looking for soft targets and it is simply impossible to provide security to the soft targets, especially those near the border (with Afghanistan)," he said.
Parents of the victims of the Peshawar attack accused the government of once more failing to keep their children safe.
"It happened again," said Zaheeruddin, father of Kashan Zaheer, a ninth grade student who was wounded in the 2014 attack.
"How is it possible to send our kids to school when the government is not able to provide any security?"
Teachers in northwest Pakistan were given permission to carry firearms in the classroom after the Peshawar massacre, and one of those who died in Wednesday's attack was an assistant chemistry professor who had turned and fired on the gunmen with his own pistol as his terrified students raced for cover.
The TTP, an umbrella group, has officially disavowed the Bacha Khan attack, branding it "un-Islamic" and vowing to hunt down those behind it.
Afghan Taliban to attend crisis group's conference in Doha
Meanwhile, the Afghan Taliban say they will attend a conference organised by an international crisis group on resolving the war in Afghanistan.
The Taliban said on Friday that representatives of their "political office" will attend the conference in Qatar's capital, Doha, organised by the Pugwash Council, a Nobel peace prize-winning group focused on resolving conflict.
The conference is "aimed at finding a solution to the conflict in Afghanistan," now in its 15th year.
Javid Faisal, deputy spokesman for Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, says there will be no government representatives at the gathering.
Last year, a similar event organised by Pugwash was also attended by Afghan officials, though they came in a personal capacity and didn't represent the government.
The Doha gathering is not linked to an ongoing four-country peace initiative.