Afghanistan confirms Taliban leader killed

2016-05-22 20:01
A file photo of Taliban leader Mullah Mansour. (Rahmat Gul, AP)

A file photo of Taliban leader Mullah Mansour. (Rahmat Gul, AP)

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Kabul - Afghanistan on Sunday said Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a US bombing raid, the first confirmation from regional officials of his death, which marks a potential blow to the resurgent militant movement.

The Taliban have not commented officially on Saturday's attack, the first known US assault on a top Afghan Taliban leader on Pakistani soil, which could scupper any immediate prospect of peace talks.

The apparent elimination of Mansour, who had consolidated power following a bitter Taliban leadership struggle over the past year, could also spark new succession battles within the fractious movement.

US officials maintained they had no definitive proof of his death in multiple drone strikes, authorised by President Barack Obama, in the remote Pakistani town of Ahmad Wal in Balochistan province.

But both Afghanistan's main spy agency, and the country's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, asserted that Mansour had been killed in the attack.

"Mansour was being closely monitored for a while... until he was targeted along with other fighters aboard a vehicle," Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security said in a statement.

The deaths of Taliban leaders have often been falsely reported. Mansour himself was rumoured to have been killed last December.

Pakistan on Sunday lambasted the US over the drone attack, calling it a violation of its sovereignty and asserting that information about it was shared with its prime minister and army chief only after the raid.

Pakistani security officials said they recovered two bodies charred beyond recognition from a smouldering vehicle at the scene of the attack.

The passenger, who is suspected of being Mansour, was said to be returning from Iran and was using a Pakistani passport with the name Muhammad Wali.

The driver - who also died in Saturday's attack - was a civilian who worked for a local rental company, according to the officials, contradicting the US account that he was a "second combatant".

The Taliban have refused to confirm their leader's death, but a member of the Quetta Shura, the Taliban's leadership council, told AFP that Mansour had been unreachable on his mobile phone since Saturday night.

"We are not sure if something is really wrong or he purposely switched off his phone fearing an attack," he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"Mansour posed... an imminent threat to US personnel, Afghan civilians and Afghan security forces," US Secretary of State John Kerry said during a visit to Myanmar on Sunday.

"He was also directly opposed to peace negotiations."

Read more on:    taliban  |  pakistan  |  us  |  afghanistan

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