22 May 2016

Taliban leader 'probably killed' by drone

12:31 pm on 22 May 2016

A US drone strike has likely killed the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the Pentagon says.

A US drone strike has likely killed the leader of the Afghan Taliban Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the Pentagon says.

Mullah Akhtar Mansour and another male combatant were targeted in a US drone strike. Photo: AFP

Mr Mansour and another male combatant were targeted as they rode in a vehicle in a remote area of Pakistan close to the Afghan border, officials said.

The mission was authorised by United States President Barack Obama, and his death, if it is confirmed, could have implications for stalled peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

And it could also have political repercussions within the Taliban, where rival factions rejected Mr Mansour's leadership after he publicly assumed the title of his predecessor, Mullah Omar.

Mr Omar's death was disclosed only last July after being kept secret for more than two years, while Mr Mansour was reported to have been killed in a gun battle last year, something dismissed by the Afghan government.

The Pentagon described Mr Mansour as an obstacle to peace and reconciliation between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban.

It said he was involved in planning attacks that threatened US, Afghan and allied forces.

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan were informed about the strike, said a US State Department spokesperson, without clarifying whether the notification was made in advance.

The Taliban have made gains since international troops withdrew from an active fighting role in 2014.

NATO forces are increasingly being deployed in battle zones to support Afghan forces fighting the Taliban.

Who is Mullah Mansour?

  • Long seen as acting head of the Taliban, and close to its founder Mullah Omar.
  • Born in the 1960s, in Kandahar province, where he later served as shadow governor after the Taliban's fall.
  • Was civil aviation minister during the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan.
  • Had an active role in drug trafficking, according to the UN.
  • Has clashed with Abdul Qayum Zakir, a senior military commander, amid a power struggle and differences over negotiations with the Afghan government.
  • A man claiming to be Mr Mansour met former Afghan President Hamid Karzai for peace talks in 2010 - but it later emerged he was an imposter.

-BBC

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