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Pak. Taliban head ‘Mullah Radio’ killed in U.S.-led strike

Pakistan Taliban chief Maulana Fazlullah (FILE)

Pakistan Taliban chief Maulana Fazlullah (FILE)   | Photo Credit: AP

Fazlullah was held responsible for attacks on Peshawar school and Malala Yousafzai

Pakistani Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah has been killed in a U.S.-Afghan air strike in Afghanistan, a senior Afghan Defence Ministry official said on Friday, a killing likely to ease tension between the United States and Pakistan.

An official at the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan confirmed Fazlullah was killed on Thursday.

The U.S. military said earlier in Washington it had carried out a strike aimed at a senior militant figure in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar, which is on the Pakistani border, and one U.S. official said the target was believed to have been Fazlullah.

Pakistan’s most wanted

Fazlullah was Pakistan’s most-wanted militant, notorious for attacks including a 2014 school massacre that killed 132 children and the 2012 shooting of Malala Yousafzai.

“I confirm that Mullah Fazlullah, leader of the Pakistani Taliban, has been killed in a joint air operation in the border area of Marawera district of Kunar province,” said Mohammad Radmanish, spokesman for the Afghan Defence Ministry, adding the air strike was carried out at about 9 a.m. on Thursday.

U.S. Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Martin O’Donnell said U.S. forces conducted a “counterterrorism strike” which targeted “a senior leader of a designated terrorist organisation.”

“U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and NATO-led Resolute Support forces continue to adhere to... Afghanistan’s unilateral ceasefire with the Afghan Taliban,” Mr. O’Donnell said. The Afghan government announced the ceasefire last week and it took effect this week.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a ceasefire lasting until June 20 but on Friday suggested it could be extended. Fazlullah’s death could ease the strained ties between Islamabad and Washington.

Pakistan is considered key to persuading Afghan Taliban leaders, who Washington believes shelter on Pakistani soil, to open negotiations to end the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan.

$5 million reward

In March, the U.S. offered a $5 million reward for information on Fazlullah.

A member of the Pakistani Taliban told Reuters on the phone on Friday that the group was trying to get word from Afghanistan, where most of the Pakistani Taliban fighters are now based.

Fazlullah emerged as an Islamist leader in the Swat Valley, northwest of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, more than a decade ago. He was known as “Mullah Radio” for his fiery sermons broadcast over a radio channel.

The Pakistani Taliban have waged a decade-long insurgency seeking to establish a harsh interpretation of Islamic rule, but most of their fighters have now fled to Afghanistan.

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Printable version | Aug 6, 2020 6:23:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/pakistan-taliban-chief-fazlullah-killed-in-us-drone-strike-in-afghanistan/article24172922.ece

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