Time: 1:48 p.m. CEST
The Afghan government and a senior Taliban commander confirmed on Sunday, Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour, died in a U.S. drone strike, the Associated Press publishes. “Mullah Abdul Rauf, who recently reconciled with Mansour after initially rebelling against his ascension to the leadership, told The Associated Press that, ‘Mansour died in the strike late Friday in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area.'”
The intelligence agency said, “Mansour had been killed in an air attack Saturday afternoon.” National Directorate of Security, said the attack was in Baluchistan in Pakistan. Ahead of the official confirmation of Mansour’s death, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in Myanmar Sunday, repeatedly referred to him in the past tense.
Mansour, he said, “posed a continuing imminent threat to U.S. personnel in Afghanistan, Afghan civilians, Afghan security forces” and members of the U.S./NATO coalition.
Mansour formally led the Taliban after the death was announced last summer of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the movement’s founder.
The death of Mansour could mean continuation of the peace talks. The drone strike, as AP says, “targeted Mansour’s vehicle which was carrying Mansour and one other person at the time,” a U.S. military source said. Another Taliban source identified the driver as Muhammad Azam Hasanai.
A four-country process with Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States appears to have floundered, with Kabul refusing to send a delegation to the most recent round of talks, sending only the ambassador to Islamabad.
The official said there had been a recent shift in the balance of power from Mansour to his deputy, Surajuddin Haqqani, a leader of the notoriously brutal Haqqani network which is affiliated with al-Qaida. Mullah Mohammad Yaqub, the son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, is popular, charismatic and believed by some officials to favor participation in a peace talks. He controls the Taliban’s military commissions in 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces and, like Rauf, recently reconciled with Mansour.