PESHAWAR – In a major development, the United States forces have reportedly killed the head of the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) during a drone strike in Kunar province of Afghanistan.
Maulana Fazlullah, who was named TTP chief following the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud in 2013, and four other commanders of the outlawed outfit are said to have been killed in the strike in n the Nur Gul Kalay village of Dangam district on June 13, Express Tribune reported, citing security and intelligence sources.
According to BBC, Afghan defence ministry spokesperson, Mohammad Radmanish, has confirmed the death of Fazlullah, saying he and four of his aides were killed on Wednesday night when their vehicle was targetted.
A US forces spokesperson in Afghanistan, Lieutenant-Colonel Martin O’Donnell, confirmed targeting a senior leader in the strike but did not disclose the name.
He says, “US forces conducted a counterterrorism strike, June 13, in Kunar province, close to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which targeted a senior leader of a designated terrorist organization”.
On the other hand, an official talking to Voice of America said the strike late Wednesday targeted elusive Mullah Fazlullah, who has been designated as a global terrorist by the United States and carried a bounty of $5 million.
However, the death of the TTP chief has not been confirmed by Islamabad, Kabul, Washington as well Taliban.
Fazlullah was involved in high profile attacks such as December 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar that killed 151 people, including 132 students. Following the attack, Pakistan Army launched high-level campaign against them, forcing them to flee the country.
The US also said Fazlullah ordered the 2012 attempted assassination of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani Nobel laureate.
Fazlullah had been on the run since his loyalists were routed in a major military operation in Swat district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in 2009.
The strike comes amid a ceasefire between the Afghan Taliban and government security forces to mark Eidul Fitr, a religious event that caps off Ramazan, a fasting month. The offer was first made by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
In response, the Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire with Afghan security forces for Eid ul Fitr.
Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the NATO-led Resolute Support, said the US would adhere to the ceasefire announced by Afghan president, which did not include US counterterrorism attacks on other terror groups.
“As previously stated, the cease-fire does not include U.S. counterterrorism efforts against IS-K, al-Qaida, and other regional and international terrorist groups, or the inherent right of U.S. and international forces to defend ourselves if attacked,” he had said.