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Obama confirms death of Mullah Mansour

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WASHINGTON, 23 MAY (DNA) – United States President Barack Obama confirmed death of Afghan Leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, calling it a milestone in establishing peace in Afghanistan, foreign media reported on Monday.

“Death of Mullah Mansour is a milestone for peace in Afghanistan. We have finished off leader of a group which would attack the US and its allies,” Obama said in a statement. The United States conducted a drone strike on Saturday against the leader of the Afghan Taliban, likely killing him close to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region in a mission authorised by US President Barack Obama, US officials said.

The strike targeting Mullah Akhtar Mansour on Saturday was perhaps the most high-profile US incursion into Pakistan since the 2011 raid to kill Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and sparked a protest by Islamabad that its sovereignty had been violated.

The Taliban have not yet officially confirmed that Mansour was killed and there were conflicting accounts on Sunday, with the Afghan government declaring him dead, while Washington stopped just short of doing so.

On Sunday, US Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told media, “At this point, we´re not quite prepared to confirm that he was killed, though it appears likely. If confirmed, Mansour’s death could trigger a succession battle within a Taliban insurgency that has proven extremely resilient despite a decade and a half of U.S. military deployments to Afghanistan.

The Taliban are considering Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, a potential unifier because of his father´s name, The News reported. The Saturday drone strike, which US officials said was authorised by President Barack Obama, showed the United States was prepared to go after the Taliban leadership in Pakistan.

Pakistan protested on Sunday, saying the US government did not inform Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif beforehand. “This is a violation of Pakistan´s sovereignty,” Sharif told reporters in London, saying it was still unclear who was killed.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged that Washington only notified Pakistan after the operation. It was unclear how long Mansour might have been inside Pakistan before the US strike.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry disclosed that a passport found at the site, bearing a different name, carried a valid Iranian visa. It added that the purported passport holder was believed to have returned to Pakistan from Iran on Saturday, the day of the drone strike targeting Mansour.

Photos of the passport, bearing the name Wali Muhammad, seen by Reuters showed a passing resemblance to some of the old photos available of Mansour. If it is confirmed that Mansour had travelled to Iran before his death, it would raise new questions about the Taliban´s use of neighbouring territories, including Iran. DNA


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