KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – Afghan security services have arrested five men in connection with the massacre at a Pakistan military school last month that killed 150 people, most of them children, officials said Saturday.
The men, all foreigners, helped support the December 16 assault by the Taleban at the Army Public School and College in the city of Peshawar, the three Afghan officials told The Associated Press. They said the men were arrested in recent weeks near Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorised to brief journalists about the arrests. Officials in Pakistan declined to immediately comment.
The attack in Peshawar, which saw seven Taleban gunmen in suicide bomb vests slaughter children gathered in the school’s auditorium and hallways, shocked and enraged citizens across Pakistan.
Though the two countries long have been rivals, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has pledged to have closer relations with Pakistan. Within 24 hours of the school attack, Pakistan’s chief of army staff, General Raheel Sharif, flew to Kabul to meet with Ghani to discuss closer cooperation on combating cross-border terrorism.
Western diplomats and military officials have said the level of cooperation between Kabul and Islamabad since the Peshawar attack is unprecedented. One Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said those arrested by Afghanistan might be used in a prisoner swap deal with Pakistan. The diplomat did not say whom Afghanistan might get in return.
Both countries accuse each other of harbouring terrorists on the other’s territory, enabling them to plan and carry out assaults before sneaking across the mountainous borders they share. Pakistan is in the middle of an operation to attack suspected militant hideouts in its tribal region bordering Afghanistan.