A senior commander with the Afghan Taliban says the militant group’s leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour has been killed in a U.S. drone strike.
Mullah Abdul Rauf told The Associated Press Sunday that Mansour died in the strike late Friday night.
He says the strike took place “in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area.”
The office of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani confirmed the strike but could not confirm Mansour’s death.
Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, however, says that Mansour is “more than likely” dead.
The United States had conducted a drone strike on Saturday against the leader of Afghan Taliban on the Pakistan side of the remote border region with Afghanistan in a mission authorized by US President Barack Obama, officials said.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook confirmed an air strike targeting Mansour in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region but declined to speculate on his fate, although multiple US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters he likely was killed.
“We are still assessing the results of the strike and will provide more information as it becomes available,” Cook said.
The mission, which included multiple drones, demonstrated a clear willingness by Obama to go after the Afghan Taliban leadership in Pakistan now that the insurgents control or contest more territory in Afghanistan than at any time since being ousted by a US-led intervention in 2001.
The death of Mullah Akhtar Mansour could further fracture the Taliban – an outcome that experts cautioned might make the insurgents even less likely to participate in long-stalled peace efforts.