Maulana Fazlullah, the dreaded chief of Pakistani Taliban, has been killed in a US drone strike in Afghanistan’s restive Kunar province, an Afghan defence ministry official said today.
Fazlullah was the man in charge of the Pakistan Taliban’s (TTP) operations in Pakistan’s Swat Valley when student activist Malala Yousafzai was shot in 2012.
He was designated as a global terrorist by the US and carried a bounty of USD 5 million. He had been on the run since his loyalists were routed in a major military operation in Pakistan’s Swat district in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in 2009.
US forces had conducted the strike close to the border of Pakistan, targeting the “Emir” of the group, according US Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell.
Fazlullah had been a major figure in the TTP even before he became emir in late 2013, and led a Pakistan Taliban militia in the country’s Swat Valley prior to his elevation to leadership of the group.
The US military said yesterday it carried out a strike targeting a senior militant leader in Afghanistan. It, however, did not identify the militant.
In Kabul, Afghan Ministry of Defense spokesman Mohammad Radmanish confirmed to CNN that Fazlullah, who is believed to be in his forties, was killed in the strike on Wednesday.
The Express Tribune, citing sources, also said the drone strike that took place in the Nur Gul Kalay village of Dangam district in eastern Kunar province killed Fazlullah and four other TTP commanders.
Fazlullah, also known by the alias Radio Mullah or Maulana Radio due to his long sermons on a private radio channel, and his commanders were having an Iftar party at a compound when a remotely piloted US aircraft targeted them, reports said.
The TTP, however, did not confirm the death of its chief in the drone strike.
Fazlullah had directed numerous high-profile attacks against the US and Pakistani targets since he was appointed the group’s leader in 2013, including the December 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar that killed 151 people, including more than 130 children.
The US strike comes amid a ceasefire between the Afghan Taliban and Afghan security forces to mark the end of the Muslim’s holy month of Ramazan.
Gen John Nicholson, the commander of US Forces-Afghanistan and the NATO-led Resolute Support, said the United States would adhere to the ceasefire announced by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, which did not include US counterterrorism attacks on other terror groups.
In 2014, there were reports that Fazlullah had been killed. However that information turned out to be false. In 2010, similar news about his death had broken out but later proved false.