Leader of Afghan Taliban 'killed in US drone strike'

Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour has been killed in a US drone strike, a senior commander with the militant group has said.

Mullah Abdul Rauf told The Associated Press today that Mansour died in the strike late Friday night.

He said the strike took place "in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area".

The office of Afghan president Ashraf Ghani confirmed the strike but could not confirm Mansour's death.

Chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, however, said that Mansour is "more than likely" dead.

Mansour formally led the Taliban after the death of the movement's founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar, was announced last summer.

Mansour, Mullah Omar's deputy, concealed Mullah Omar's death for more than two years, and ran the Taliban in his name until the death was disclosed by the Afghan government.

Speaking live on television as he chaired a cabinet meeting, Abdullah said Mansour's death would have a positive impact on attempts to bring peace to Afghanistan, where the Taliban have been waging an insurgency for 15 years.

Mansour was "the main figure preventing the Taliban joining the peace process", Abdullah said.

"From the day he took over the Taliban following the death of Mullah Omar, he intensified violence against ordinary citizens, especially in Afghanistan."

Mullah Rauf was an early detractor of Mansour's but decided this year to declare loyalty to him in the interest of unifying the movement.

Earlier, the US Department of Defence said a drone strike had targeted Mansour "in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region".

Afghan officials said the drone strike took place in Pakistan's Baluchistan province, in the Ahmad Wal area.

The Afghan government has long accused the Pakistani authorities of harbouring and supporting the Afghan Taliban.

The drone strike targeted Mansour's vehicle which was carrying Mansour and one other person at the time, a US military source said.

Another Taliban source identified the driver as Muhammad Azam Hasanai, and said the vehicle the two men were travelling in was completely destroyed in the drone strike.

KEYWORDS: taliban, afghanistan


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