Taleban chief 'killed in drone strike'

Afghan officials have confirmed the death of Taleban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a US drone strike, but many details remain unexplained.
Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said the likely death of Taleban leader Akhtar Mohammad Mansour will undermine their ability carrying out future attacks in Afghanistan.
Mullah Akhtar Mansour (above) was killed in a United States drone attack (left) inside Pakistan. He was in a vehicle with other militants in the remote town of Ahmad Wal in Balochistan, around 160km west of Quetta.
Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a United States drone attack (above) inside Pakistan. He was in a vehicle with other militants in the remote town of Ahmad Wal in Balochistan, around 160km west of Quetta.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Mullah Akhtar Mansour (above) was killed in a United States drone attack (left) inside Pakistan. He was in a vehicle with other militants in the remote town of Ahmad Wal in Balochistan, around 160km west of Quetta.
Mullah Akhtar Mansour (above) was killed in a United States drone attack inside Pakistan. He was in a vehicle with other militants in the remote town of Ahmad Wal in Balochistan, around 160km west of Quetta.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

His elimination could spark new fight in fractious movement over who takes over

KABUL • Afghanistan's main spy agency said yesterday that Taleban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a United States drone attack inside Pakistan.

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

His death is a potential blow to the resurgent militant movement.

The Taleban have so far not commented on the unprecedented American bombardment on Saturday in the remote south-western province of Balochistan.

The strike was authorised by US President Barack Obama.

The elimination of the terror group leader, who swiftly consolidated power following a bitter Taleban leadership struggle over the past year, could spark new succession battles within the fractious movement.

"Mansour was the target and was likely killed" in the remote town of Ahmad Wal by multiple unmanned aircraft operated by US special operations forces, an American official said on Saturday.

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

The Afghan presidential palace said in an earlier statement that the drone strike "shows that terrorists fuelling conflict will not be safe anywhere".

Mansour was formally appointed head of the Taleban in July last year following the revelation that the group's founder Mullah Omar had been dead for two years.

The group saw a resurgence under the firebrand supremo with striking military victories, helping to cement his authority by burnishing his credentials as a commander.

They briefly captured the strategic northern city of Kunduz in September in their biggest victory in 14 years.

Southern Helmand province, which is also rich in opium, is almost entirely under insurgent control.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the mullah had presented an "obstacle to peace, prohibiting Taleban leaders from participating in peace talks with the Afghan government".

But his death was not immediately seen as likely to push the Taleban closer to peace talks and could press them to show they are still able to wage an aggressive battle, observers say.

"The war has been going on for so long, the Taleban has so many leaders and so much ability to function at the local level even without strong central guidance, that we would be well advised to keep expectations in check," said Dr Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution think- tank.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2016, with the headline 'Taleban chief 'killed in drone strike''. Print Edition | Subscribe