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Afghan Taliban sources confirm death of leader

‘I can say with good authority that Mullah Mansour is no more,’ a senior Taliban source told AFP

Published: Updated:

Senior Afghan Taliban sources on Sunday confirmed the death of their chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a US drone strike in Pakistan, adding a shura or council is underway to decide his successor.

“I can say with good authority that Mullah Mansour is no more,” a senior Taliban source told AFP.

Mansour’s death was confirmed by two other senior figures, who said the group’s top leaders were gathering in Quetta to name their future chief.

Earlier, Reuters quoted a US official as saying that Mansour was “likely killed” along with another combatant. He added that multiple U.S. drones targeted the men as they rode in a vehicle.

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement: "Today, the Department of Defense conducted an airstrike that targeted Taliban leader Mullah Mansour in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region."

Cook said that Mansour has been "actively involved with planning attacks against facilities in Kabul and across Afghanistan, presenting a threat to Afghan civilians and security forces, our personnel, and Coalition partners."

Cook added that "Mansour has been an obstacle to peace and reconciliation between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, prohibiting Taliban leaders from participating in peace talks with the Afghan government that could lead to an end to the conflict."

According to local reports, the airstrike was carried out in southwest of the town of Ahmad Wal in Zabul province and media outlets quoted an official as confirming that President Barack Obama has authorized the strike.

Mansour was targeted by US drone strikes because he posed an "threat" to US troops, Afghan civilians and peace talks, Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday on a visit to Myanmar.

The US said Saturday's strikes hit a vehicle carrying Mansour and a second passenger in Pakistan's remote southwestern province of Balochistan bordering Afghanistan.

Speaking to reporters in the Myanmar capital Naypyidaw Kerry outlined the reasons for the strikes.

"Mansour posed... an imminent threat to US personnel, Afghan civilians and Afghan security forces," he told reporters, adding "he was also directly opposed to peace negotiations."

The US "has long maintained that an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned reconciliation process is the surest way to ensure peace... peace is what we want, Mansour was a threat to that," Kerry added.

The Taliban have so far not commented on the American strike or confirmed Mansour's death. He had been appointed leader last July. But Afghanistan's main spy agency confirmed his death.

"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.

The drone attack came just days after US, Chinese, Pakistani and Afghan officials held a fresh round of talks in Islamabad aimed at restarting the stalled peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

(With Reuters and AFP)