Kabul: Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was “likely killed” in a rare US drone strike inside Pakistan, US officials said today, in what could be a body blow for the insurgents and a major boost to fledgling peace process in war-torn Afghanistan. Mansour and another male combatant were targeted yesterday by multiple unmanned aircraft operated by US Special Operations forces as the duo rode in a vehicle in a remote area near the town of Ahmad Wal in Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province close to the Afghan border, the officials said. The Pentagon has confirmed it targeted Mansour in strikes but said they were still assessing the results of the operation authorised by President Barack Obama.

A senior commander with the Afghan Taliban said Mansour has been killed in the US drone strike. Mullah Abdul Rauf told The Associated Press that Mansour died in the strike late Friday night. But the Afghan government said it could not confirm it. Mansour assumed the leadership in July 2015, replacing Taliban founder and the one-eyed reclusive long-time spiritual head Mullah Mohammad Omar in Pakistan in 2013. “Mansour has been the leader of the Taliban and actively involved with planning attacks against facilities in Kabul and across Afghanistan, presenting a threat to Afghan civilians and security forces, our personnel, and Coalition partners,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook.

“Mansour has been an obstacle to peace and reconciliation between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, prohibiting Taliban leaders from participating in peace talks with the Afghan government that could lead to an end to the conflict,” he said. He, however, said the Department of Defense was still assessing the results of its strike inside Pakistan. The drone strike inside Pakistan was a rare one since US Navy Seals killed Al Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in a stealth raid in the Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad in 2011.

“Since the death of Mullah Omar and Mansour’s assumption of leadership, the Taliban have conducted many attacks that have resulted in the death of tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and Afghan security forces as well as numerous US and Coalition personnel,” Cook said. The United States informed both Pakistan and Afghanistan shortly after the strike, a senior White House official said. In Kabul, Afghan CEO Abdullah Abdullah said that if Mansour’s death is confirmed major changes within the ranks of the Taliban could be expected. Addressing a press conference, Abdullah said if Mansour is dead a number of Taliban leaders could join the peace process. He said that it was possible that Mansour was killed in a targeted drone attack on Saturday in Pakistan.

Staff ReporterGENERAL
Kabul: Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was “likely killed” in a rare US drone strike inside Pakistan, US officials said today, in what could be a body blow for the insurgents and a major boost to fledgling peace process in war-torn Afghanistan. Mansour and another male combatant were...