The United States military on Thursday targetted a chief of the outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) via a drone strike in Afghanistan’s Kunar province near the border with Pakistan, it said of the attack, with one US official saying the target was believed to be the head of the banned group.
“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,” Lieutenant-Colonel Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for the US forces in Afghanistan, said.
O’Donnell, however, did not specify that Fazullah was the target.
Nevertheless, a US official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to the Voice of America, said the strike late Wednesday targeted Mullah Fazlullah, the chief of the banned Taliban outfit that has waged a decade-long insurgency in the South Asian nation.
The official said the status of Fazlullah was unclear. Further, there was no confirmation, as of reporting time, from the TTP regarding the strike and reports of Fazlullah’s death.
In March, the US had offered a $5-million reward for information on Fazlullah.
The strike comes amid a ceasefire between the Afghan Taliban and government security forces to mark the end of the Muslim’s holy month of Ramazan.
General John Nicholson, the commander of the US Forces Afghanistan and the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission, had said earlier the US would adhere to the ceasefire announced by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, which did not include US counter-terrorism operations against other terror groups.
“As previously stated, the ceasefire does not include US counter-terrorism efforts against [Daesh], Al-Qaida, and other regional and international terrorist groups, or the inherent right of US and international forces to defend ourselves if attacked,” he had said.
TTP and its influence
Although Taliban extremists still unleash attacks, the group has lost control of all territory in Pakistan since its December 2014 attack on an army school that killed 132 children.
The TTP has also threatened attacks against the US homeland and had claimed responsibility for a failed 2010 bomb attack in New York City’s Times Square.
In 2012, its fighters also shot Malala Yousafzai, then an 11-year-old who advocated education for fellow girls. She received the Nobel Peace prize in 2014, enrolled at the Oxford University, and talked at various platforms about women’s rights and education.
Washington and Kabul accuse Pakistan of harbouring the Afghan Taliban and fighters of the allied Haqqani network, which Islamabad denies. Islamabad, on the other hand, says the Taliban maintain sanctuaries in neighbouring Afghanistan.