Afghanistan’s spy agency says Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a US bombing raid, the first confirmation from regional officials of his death, which marks a potential blow to the resurgent militant movement. The Taliban have not commented officially on the very rare American drone attack deep inside Pakistan on Saturday, authorised by President Barack Obama, which could scupper any immediate prospect of peace talks.
The apparent elimination of Mansour, who had consolidated power following a bitter Taliban leadership struggle over the past year, could also spark new succession battles within the fractious movement.
“Mansour was being closely monitored for a while … until he was targeted along with other fighters aboard a vehicle,” Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security said in a statement.
American officials on Saturday said Mansour was “likely killed” in the remote Pakistani town of Ahmad Wal in Balochistan province by multiple unmanned aircraft operated by US special forces. Mansour a ‘threat’ to US troops: Kerry
Speaking to reporters on a visit to Myanmar, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Mansour was targeted by US drone strikes because he posed a “threat” to US troops, Afghan civilians and peace talks.
“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,” Mr Kerry added.
Earlier, a Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman said Pakistan was “seeking clarification” about the US drone strike.
“I have seen the reports. We are seeking clarification,” Nafees Zakaria said in a statement. He added that Pakistan wanted the Taliban to return to the negotiating table to end the long war in Afghanistan.
“Military action is not a solution,” he added.
Mr Kerry said that Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was notified of the air strike, but declined to elaborate on the timing of the notification.
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. (ABC)