Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour killed, Afghans confirm

Afghanistan’s spy agency has confirmed that Taliban
leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour has been killed, after the
US targeted him in a drone strike.
The drone targeted his vehicle in a remote area of south-
west Pakistan, near the Afghan border, on Saturday.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said Mansour had posed “a
continuing, imminent threat to US personnel”.
Mansour assumed the leadership in July 2015, replacing
Taliban founder and spiritual head Mullah Mohammad
Omar.
The Afghan National Security Directorate (NDS) said on
Sunday that Mansour had been killed in the Dalbandi area
of Balochistan province – the first official confirmation of the
killing of the Taliban leader.
Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and defence
ministry spokesman Daulat Waziri also said that Mansour
had been killed.
Pakistan’s government said on Sunday the drone strike was
a violation of its sovereignty.
The passenger thought to be Mansour had a passport under
the name Wali Muhammad and was returning from Iran, it
said. He had yet to be formally identified, Pakistan said.
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 Mansour met former Afghan
President Hamid Karzai for peace talks in 2010 – but it
later emerged he was an imposter
Profile: Mullah Akhtar Mansour
Why the Taliban face a leadership crisis
The Pentagon announced on Saturday that an operation had
taken place near the town of Ahmad Wal at around 15:00
(10:00 GMT) and had been authorised by President Barack
Obama.
It said the strike had “probably” killed Mansour and an
armed male combatant travelling with him.
There have been conflicting reports from the Taliban.
Senior commander Mullah Abdul Rauf told Associated Press
that Mansour had been killed, but that the strike happened
late on Friday.
Other reports denied his death. One unnamed Taliban
commander told Reuters: “We heard about these baseless
reports, but this not first time. Just wanted to share with you
my own information that Mullah Mansour has not been
killed.”
False rumours have often surrounded Taliban leaders.
Analysis: Inayatulhaq Yasini, Editor, BBC Pashto online
The death of Mullah Mansour would be a big blow for the
Taliban.
He was gradually tightening his grip on the movement by
bringing into his fold other leading Taliban members,
including a son and a brother of his predecessor Mullah
Mohammed Omar, and by launching large scale attacks on
Afghan security forces.
Under his leadership, the Taliban managed to capture an
important city last year for the first time in 15 years.
Mansour also managed to silence the splinter Taliban group
under Mullah Muhammad Rasool, which challenged his
leadership, and is credited by his followers for containing
so-called Islamic State in Taliban areas.
A vacuum created by his death would once again trigger a
leadership struggle.
Mr Kerry, on a visit to Myanmar, said: “This action sends a
clear message to the world that we will continue to stand
with our Afghan partners as they work to build a more
stable, united, secure and prosperous Afghanistan.
“Peace is what we want. Mansour was a threat to that effort.”
A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said: “Our
hope in the wake of the strike is for the Afghan-led peace
process to bring lasting peace and stability.”
Mr Abdullah said Mansour had been “the main figure
preventing the Taliban joining the peace process”.

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