Pak Taliban Chief Believed Dead In US Strike In Afghanistan

Sergio Conner
June 16, 2018

However, a spokesman for the U.S. forces in Afghanistan on Friday would only confirm that a "senior leader of a designated terror organization" had been targeted in a drone strike in Afghanistan's Kunar province on Wednesday.

The US military said Thursday it carried out a strike targeting a senior terrorist leader in Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province, where Pakistani Taliban chief Maulana Fazlullah is believed to be hiding.

Martin O'Donnell said US forces conducted a "counterterrorism strike" that targeted "a senior leader of a designated terrorist organization".

Military officials - speaking off record - said Wednesday's strike targeted Mullah Fazlullah, who is the leader of the Pakistani Taliban.

The Afghan government announced a ceasefire in the region this week and Mr O'Donnell said: "US Forces-Afghanistan and NATO-led Resolute Support forces continue to adhere to Afghanistan's unilateral ceasefire with the Afghan Taliban". Ahead of the American drone strike, Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had visited Kabul to discuss the Afghan peace process and counterterrorism cooperation.

Four other Pakistani Taliban commanders were also killed in the attack.

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Fazlullah rose to prominence through radio broadcasts in Swat demanding the imposition of Islamic law, earning him the nickname "Mullah Radio".

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai speaks during an interview with Reuters at a local hotel in Islamabad on March 30.

Fazlullah had been a major figure in the TTP even before he became emir in late 2013, and led a Pakistan Taliban militia in the country's Swat Valley prior to his elevation to leadership of the group.

Fazlullah is reviled in Pakistan for the 2014 assault on an army-run school in the city of Peshawar in which Pakistani Taliban gunmen killed at least 132 children. However, he noted that the cease-fire applies to the Afghan Taliban and "does not include USA counterterrorism efforts" against a local branch of the Islamic State, al-Qaeda "and other regional and global terrorist groups".

The youngster, 15 at the time, was shot while on a bus after taking an exam in 2012. His predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, died of injuries sustained in a drone strike in 2009.

Afghanistan's defence ministry spokesman said that Fazlullah was among the dead. He helped preside over a reign of terror in Pakistan's Swat Valley for years, ordering his men to kill and mutilate anyone who he believed opposed his extremist interpretation of Islam.

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