Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour has been targeted and ‘likely killed’ in an air strike, US officials have said.
The US military carried out an air strike on Saturday in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, according to officials.
“We are still assessing the results of the strike and will provide more information as it becomes available,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in an official statement.
“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” Cook said, offering justification for the strike.
Afghanistan government and intelligence agency, Afghan National Security Directorate (NDS), has confirmed that Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour has been killed, in US drone strike. Afghanistan, however, claims the drone targeted his vehicle in Dalbandi area of Balochistan province, which is 2-hours drive away from Ahmad Wal – the place of target reported by Reuters.
In the event of Mullah Mansour’s killing, a new opportunity presents itself to those Taliban who are willing to end war & bloodshed. (7/n)
— ارگ (@ARG_AFG) May 22, 2016
One of the Taliban commanders, Mullah Abdul Rauf, has also confirmed that Mansour died in the strike late Friday night, AP reported.
Mansour officially replaced Mullah Omar, the founder of the Taliban, as the group’s emir in August 2015 when Omar’s death was disclosed.
If confirmed, the death of Mullah Akhtar Mansour may open up a battle for succession and deepen fractures that developed in the insurgent movement after the death of Mullah Mohammad Omar, point out Reuters.
The timing of the strike was significant as the Afghan government warned it would take action against the group for not participating in the peace talks. “If it is proved that Mullah Mansour has died in the strike, it would be a major blow to the Taliban” Al Jazeera noted.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said Mansour has posed “a continuing, imminent threat to US personnel”.
While the Pentagon did not state the location of the airstrike which targeted Mansour, Reuters reported that it took place at 6 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (3 p.m. local time) in the town of Ahmad Wal in Baluchistan province.
“Multiple US drones targeted the men as they rode in a vehicle in a remote area in Pakistan along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, southwest of the town of Ahmad Wal,” an unnamed official told Reuters.
“This is the first reported strike by the US in Baluchistan” point out The Long War Journal report. All of the other 391 drone and airstrikes reportedly executed by the US took place in Pakistan’s province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 280 took place in North Waziristan and 90 took place in South Waziristan.. Only one other strike took place outside of the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies”, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal.
Courtesy: IRIA and Agencies