World Bulletin / News Desk
An American drone strike targeted and "likely killed"Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a remote area of Pakistan on Saturday, U.S. officials said, in a major and rare American military raid in the country.
The air strike, authorized by President Barack Obama, also killed a second adult male combatant as the pair traveled in a vehicle southwest of the town of Ahmad Wal near the Afghan border, a U.S. official said.
"Mansour was the target and was likely killed" by the strikes, which were carried out around 6:00 am (1000 GMT) by multiple unmanned aircraft operated by U.S. Special Operations Forces, the U.S. official added, speaking on conditions of anonymity. There were no other known casualties.
In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the U.S. military was still assessing whether Mansour had in fact been killed. The deaths ofTaliban leaders have often been falsely reported, and Mansour himself was rumored to have been killed in December.
The United States informed both Pakistan and Afghanistan shortly after the strike, a senior White House official said.
News of the strike came as U.S. Central Command chief General Joseph Votel made a surprise visit to northern Syria to witness efforts to build up local forces in the fight against the ISIL group.
He was the highest-ranking U.S. military official to travel to Syria since its civil conflict began in 2011.
The United States has focused its counterterrorism efforts on fighting ISIL in Syria and Iraq, but it also is struggling with a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan since most U.S. combat troops withdrew at the end of 2014.
Mansour was "actively involved" with planning attacks across Afghanistan, and presented an "obstacle to peace and reconciliation between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, prohibiting Taliban leaders from participating in peace talks with the Afghan government that could lead to an end to the conflict," Cook said.
Mansour was appointed head of the Taliban in July 2015 following the revelation that the group's founder Mullah Omar had been dead for two years.
"Since the death of Mullah Omar and Mansour's assumption of leadership, the Taliban have conducted many attacks that have resulted in the death of tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and Afghan security forces as well as numerous U.S. and coalition personnel," Cook said.Last Mod: 22 Mayıs 2016, 10:45