Mullah Fazlullah, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader, accused of shooting activist Malala Yousafzai was killed by a United States drone strike June 13 close to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, a U.S. military official confirmed to Voice of America. "U.S. 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," army Lt. Col. Martin O'Donnell, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan said. He was reportedly traveling in a vehicle with four other commanders when the strike took place, Pakistani daily the Express Tribune reported. "A US drone strike in Afghanistan's northeastern Kunar province has killed the leader of the TTP," Mohammad Radmanish, Afghanistan's Ministry of Defense spokesperson, told CNN. "US Forces-Afghanistan and NATO-led Resolute Support forces continue to adhere to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan's unilateral ceasefire with the Afghan Taliban, announced by ... Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, which began on the 27th day of Ramadan," a statement from U.S. Forces-Afghanistan said claiming the strike did not put the ceasefire order by President Ashraf Ghani into risk, CNN reported. "As previously stated, the ceasefire does not include US counterterrorism efforts against IS-K, al Qaeda, and other regional and international terrorist groups, or the inherent right of US and international forces to defend ourselves if attacked," the statement added.
Shifting from the drone policy of the Obama administration, President Donald Trump has given the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) new authority to conduct drone attacks against suspected militants, anonymous U.S. officials said. The new policy is in contrast to that of former President Barack Obama that limited the CIA's paramilitary role, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. Under the Obama administration, the CIA used drones and other intelligence resources to locate suspected terrorists and then the military conducted the actual strike. Although Obama pushed for the use of drones, he kept the military in place to conduct the actual strike. During Obama's two terms, a total of 563 strikes, largely by drones, targeted Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen compared to 57 strikes under George W. Bush, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Ahmad Hasan Abu Khayr al-Masri, al Qaeda's second in command, reportedly was killed Sunday in a drone strike in Syria. Israeli broadcaster Arutz Sheva cited unconfirmed reports saying a U.S. drone strike near al-Mastoumeh in Idlib province killed al-Masri, who has been described as the general deputy to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Video of the aftermath was posted on YouTube by the Smart News Agency. Al-Masri, 59, was in Iranian custody for a dozen years until 2015 when he was released and moved to Syria. Pictures of the car in which al-Masri reportedly was traveling were posted on Twitter.
President-elect Donald Trump will be able to employ deadly drone strikes largely at his discretion if current guidelines remain in place. And President Barack Obama has no plans to change those rules before he leaves office, the Guardian reported Tuesday. The next president will inherit the so-called drones "playbook" created by the Obama administration in 2013 that dictated policy on drone strikes, the president's main way of striking against terrorism. Since drone usage began under the administration of President George W. Bush, thousands of people have been killed through the targeted strikes from unmanned aircraft and many nations across the globe consider the standards the U.S. applies for drone strikes to be too secretive. "Maybe on the left no one would believe that Trump has a steady hand, but Obama has normalized the idea that presidents get to have secret large-scale killing programs at their disposal," Naureen Shah of Amnesty International USA told the Guardian.
A suspected U.S. drone strike killed four members of al Qaeda's Yemen branch, including a local commander, two unidentified officials in Yemen said Saturday. A vehicle traveling east of the capital Sanaa was reportedly hit by the drone. Officials told Reuters the attack was carried out in Marib province, which is controlled by forces loyal to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, late Friday. Abu Khaled al-Sanaani, the local commander of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was among the four dead, officials said. The latest attack was the second drone strike in two days to target a local commander of the militant group, which is regarded by U.S. officials as one of the most dangerous branches of al Qaeda.
United States President Barack Obama's administration said Friday that up to 116 civilians have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries where America is not at war. Obama's goal for the release of the numbers is reportedly to create greater transparency about the actions of the U.S. military and CIA in counterterrorism measures against militants plotting attacks against the United States. The announcement covered strikes from the day Obama took office in January 2009 through Dec. 31, 2015. The report by National Intelligence Director James Clapper said the U.S. conducted 473 counterterror strikes, including those by unmanned drones, in this period. Even though the report does not mention the countries where the attacks were carried out, the Associated Press (AP) reported that the Defense Department and CIA have pursued targets in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya.
The Afghan government is looking warily at the conservative religious scholar who has assumed leadership of the Taliban, seeing in him a rigid proponent of hardline orthodoxy who is unlikely to favor peace talks, officials said. A day after the Afghan Taliban announced that Haibadullah Akhundzada would take over after Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan, officials on Thursday were trying to form a picture of a leader best known for relentlessly applying strict sharia, or Islamic law. In his former role as one of the Taliban insurgency's senior judges, he was responsible for issuing a series of death sentences against opponents of Mansour, according to General Abdul Razeq, police chief of Akhundzada's home city of Kandahar. Officials said he appeared to favor a return to the austere and often harsh Islamic rule in Afghanistan before the Taliban were ousted by U.S.-led forces in 2001, something that would be unacceptable to the Afghan government and its Western backers. "He is a simple religious cleric," said Haji Agha Lalai, an adviser to President Ashraf Ghani, who added that Akhundzada would rely heavily on his deputy Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the feared Haqqani network, for battlefield decisions.
The Afghan Taliban have named a deputy to former leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour as their new leader, a spokesman said in a statement on Wednesday, the group's first official confirmation that Mansour was killed in a U.S. drone strike. Haibatullah Akhunzada, who was named in a United Nations report last year as the Taliban's former chief justice, is reported to be a respected religious scholar but little is known of his background. Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of a network blamed for many high-profile bombs attacks in Kabul in recent years, and Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of former leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, will serve as deputies, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban's main spokesman, said in the statement. "All people are required to obey the new Emir-al-Momineen (commander of the faithful)," the statement said. The announcement, following a meeting of the Taliban's main shura or leadership council, ends three days of confusion during which the Islamist movement had provided no official reaction to the death of Mansour in a drone strike in Pakistan on Saturday.
A U.S. drone strike targeting the Afghan Taliban's commander, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, led to the leadership council meeting Sunday to discuss succession, two Taliban sources told Reuters. This has been the strongest indication by the group of its acceptance of Mansour's death. Pakistani local residents gather around a destroyed vehicle hit by a drone strike, in which Afghan Taliban Chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour was believed to be travelling, in the remote town of Ahmad Wal in Balochistan, around 100 miles west of Quetta, May 21, 2016. President Barack Obama, according to ABC, has released a statement confirming Mansour's death. In the statement, Obama called Mansour's death "an important milestone in our longstanding effort to bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan."
Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour has been killed, Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security confirmed Sunday afternoon after several hours of uncertainty. The Afghan intelligence agency said Mansour, who was officially named the group's leader last year, was killed in an "airstrike" in a remote area in Balochistan in southwestern Pakistan Saturday. Prior to that, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also confirmed that Mansour had been targeted in a drone strike by the United States. "Mullah Akhtar Mansour refused to answer repeated calls by the people and Government of Afghanistan to end the war and violence in the country. While sheltering himself in hideouts outside Afghanistan, he was also involved in deception, concealment of facts, maiming and killing innocent Afghans, terrorism, intimidation, drug smuggling as well as obstruction of development and progress in Afghanistan as he obstinately insisted on continuing the war," the Afghan president's office said in a statement Sunday.