The Pentagon has announced that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour has probably been killed in a drone strike in Pakistan. The raid was specifically targeting the fundamentalist leader, US authorities said.
The strike near the Afghan-Pakistani border was authorized by President Barack Obama, according to initial reports.
Anonymous sources from the Department of Defense told the press that a second adult male combatant probably died alongside Mansour, but that no civilians were injured in the attack. "Mansour was the target and was likely killed," an unnamed official said, adding that the Afghan and Pakistani governments had been notified.
"We are still assessing the results of the strike and will provide more information as it becomes available," said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook in a statement.
The statement added that Mansour was "the leader of the Taliban and actively involved with planning attacks against facilities in Kabul and across Pakistan, presenting a threat to Afghan civilians and security forces, our personnel and coalition partners," the statement continued.
Multiple US drones targeted the men as they rode in a vehicle in a remote area in Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan, southwest of the town of Ahmad Wal, the US official said.
An unidentified Taliban commander close to Mansour denied he was dead, according to the Reuters news agency early Sunday. "We heard about these baseless reports, but this (is) not (the) first time," the commander said. "Just wanted to share with you my own information that Mullah Mansour has not been killed."
In December, Mansour was reportedly wounded and possibly killed in a shootout at the house of another Taliban leader near Quetta in Pakistan.
Mansour was chosen as leader of the now fractured Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan in July 2015, following the death of former leader Mohammed Omar. Mansour had been blamed for stalled peace talks between the insurgents and the Afghan government after reportedly prohibiting his followers from negotiating with Kabul.
es/jm (AP, AFP)