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Taliban leader Mullah Mansour ‘likely killed’ in US airstrike

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Washington: In a major victory in the war against terrorism, Taliban leader Mullah Mansour was “likely killed” in a US airstrike in a remote area of western Pakistan bordering Afghanistan, a US official has said.

The airstrike that targeted Mansour yesterday was carried out in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, he said.

Noting that US President Barack Obama had authorised the operation, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a second man along with Mansour was also believed to have been killed.

Several drone aircraft had launched a strike on a vehicle in a remote area near Ahmad Wal, a town in western Pakistan. The strike took place around 6 am local time,’Washington Post’ reported.

“Mansour has been the leader of the Taliban and 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,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook.

“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,” he said.

He, however, said the Department of Defense was still assessing the results of its strike inside Pakistan.

“Since the death of Mullah Omar and Mansour’s assumption of leadership, the Taliban have conducted many attacks that have resulted in the death of tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and Afghan security forces as well as numerous US and Coalition personnel,” Cook said.

The death of Mansour was hailed by top American lawmakers. “I welcome the news that Mullah Akhtar Mansour has met his just end. I salute the skill and professionalism of the US Armed Forces who carried out this mission. Their actions have made America and Afghanistan safer,” said Senator John McCain, Chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee.

“I hope this strike against the Taliban’s top leader will lead the Administration to reconsider its policy of prohibiting US forces from targeting the Taliban,” he said.

Noting that the US troops are in Afghanistan today for the same reason they deployed there in 2001 – to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for global terrorists, McCain said Taliban remains allied with terrorists, including al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network.

“It is the one force most able and willing to turn Afghanistan into a terrorist safe haven once again,” McCain said.

“If verified, the death of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour would be an important victory in the fight against terror and welcome news to our military personnel in Afghanistan and the Afghan government,” said Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“I am thankful for the work our military and intelligence communities are doing to bring justice to those responsible for spreading evil. If Pakistan would play a more constructive role, we could destabilise the Taliban far more rapidly,” Corker said.

Born in Afghanistan, Mansour was part of the Taliban from the group’s beginning in the 1990s and has effectively been in charge since 2013.

In July, Mansour succeeded Mullah Omar, one-eyed reclusive long-time head, when it was said that Omar had died two years ago. Omar had led the Taliban from its rise in the Afghanistan civil war of the 1990s.

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