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U.S. drones strike at Afghan Taliban leader in Pakistan

Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was likely killed by a U.S. drone strike
By The News · 21 of May 2016 16:31:47
An Afghan man reads a local newspaper with photos of the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mansour, in Kabul, December 2015, No available, photo: AP/Rahmat Gul

WASHINGTON — The United States carried out a drone strike on Saturday against the leader of Afghan Taliban, likely killing him on the Pakistan side of the remote border region with Afghanistan in a mission authorized by U.S. President Barack Obama, officials said.

The death of Mullah Akhtar Mansour, should it be confirmed, could have implications for stalled peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

The U.S. military carried out an air strike on Saturday targeting Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, the Pentagon said. Photo:  Reuters/Taliban Handout

The U.S. military carried out an air strike on Saturday targeting Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, the Pentagon said. Photo: Reuters/Taliban Handout

It could also have political repercussions within the Taliban, where rival factions rejected Mansour’s leadership after he publicly assumed the title of his predecessor, Mullah Omar. Omar’s death was only disclosed last July after being kept secret for more than two years.

The Pentagon branded Mansour “an obstacle to peace and reconciliation between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban” and said he was actively involved in planning attacks that threatened U.S., Afghan and allied forces.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook, confirming an air strike targeting Mansour in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, said Mansour had prohibited Taliban leaders from participating in peace talks with the Afghan government.

“We are still assessing the results of the strike and will provide more information as it becomes available,” Cook said.

Multiple U.S. drones targeted the men as they rode in a vehicle in the remote area, southwest of the town of Ahmad Wal, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. U.S. special operations forces operated the drones, in a mission authorized by U.S. President Barack Obama, the official said.

The strike took place at about 6 a.m. EDT (1000 GMT), a U.S. official said, which would have placed it at Saturday in 3 p.m. in Pakistan.

A State Department official said both Pakistan and Afghanistan were notified of the strike, but did not disclose whether that notification was prior to it being carried out.

“The opportunity to conduct this operation to eliminate the threat that Mansour posed was a distinctive one, and we acted on it,” the official said.

PHIL STEWART
IDREES ALI