Pakistan Taliban chief killed in US drone strike

Washington: A US drone strike in Afghanistan has killed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Mullah Fazlullah, the man in charge of the outfit operations in the Swat Valley when activist Malala Yousafzai was shot in 2012, the Afghan Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

Ministry of Defence spokesman Mohammad Radmanish told CNN that Fazlullah, who led the TTP from 2013, was killed in the strike in Kunar province on Wednesday.

Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for US Forces-Afghanistan, earlier told the Voice of America that US forces conducted a counter-terrorism strike on June 13 in Kunar which is close to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan and targeted a senior leader of a designated terrorist organisation.

Locals in the area confirmed the death. However, Pentagon officials declined to comment on the development.

Fazlullah had been a major figure in the TTP even before he became “emir” of the group in late 2013 and led a Pakistan Taliban militia in the country’s Swat Valley before his elevation to leadership of the group.

US officials said Fazlullah directed numerous high-profile attacks against American and Pakistani targets, including the December 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar that killed 151 people.

He is also accused of ordering the 2012 attempted assassination of Malala Yousafzai, who had been advocating for the right of girls to have access to an education.

The US State Department offered a $5 million reward for Fazlullah in March, the same month Pakistani sources said his son was killed in an American drone strike on a TTP training facility.

A statement from US Forces-Afghanistan claimed that the strike did not put at risk an ongoing, unilateral ceasefire initiated by the Afghan government.

“US Forces-Afghanistan and NATO-led Resolute Support forces continue to adhere to the Afghanistan government’s unilateral ceasefire with the Afghan Taliban, announced by President Ashraf Ghani.

“As previously stated, the ceasefire does not include US counterterrorism efforts against… regional and international terrorist groups, or the inherent right of US and international forces to defend ourselves if attacked,” read the statement.

“We hope this pause leads to dialogue and progress on reconciliation and a lasting end to hostilities,” it added.

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