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.
The Pentagon says it launched an airstrike in Afghanistan Saturday targeting Mullah Akhtar Mansur, the Taliban’s overall leader. Though the Pentagon is still assessing the results of the airstrike a U.S. official said Mansur was “likely killed” in the airstrike personally authorized by President Obama.
“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,” 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.”
A senior commander of the Afghan Taliban confirmed on Sunday that the extremist group’s leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, has been killed in a U.S. drone strike.
Mullah Abdul Rauf, who recently reconciled with Mansour after initially rebelling against his ascension to the leadership, told The Associated Press that Mansour died in the strike late Friday “in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area.”
The office of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also confirmed the news in his tweet:
The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan confirms the drone attack on Mullah Akhtar Mansour by the United States Forces. (1/n)
— ارگ (@ARG_AFG) May 22, 2016
If confirmed, the death of the man who took over the leadership of the terrorist group following the death of Mullah Mohammad Omar will surely be a setback for the Afghan Taliban.
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 points out.