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. On Thursday, a drone strike on a vehicle in al-Bayda province in central Yemen killed a senior AQAP leader known as Abdallah al-Sanaani. The U.S. has carried out drone strikes to target the Islamist militant group that has been exploiting Yemen's civil war, which has left at least 10,000 dead since fighting escalated in March 2015. The U.S. has targeted AQAP many times in recent years, and in 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric, who had reportedly become an al Qaeda leader in Yemen, was killed in an airstrike.
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. Even the most conservative estimates by non-governmental organizations that have spent years tallying U.S. strikes in these countries are higher than the ones acknowledged by the administration. Obama also signed an executive order Friday that requires U.S. policies to limit non-combatant casualties and publicizing the number of strikes each year, and combatants and civilians killed.
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. "He is a very conservative, narrow-minded, inefficient kind of person who will never be able to unite the Taliban or gather support," said Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi, the deputy and spokesman of Mullah Mohammad Rasool, leader of the most prominent anti-Mansour faction in the Taliban. Pakistan, which has faced fresh accusations of harboring the Taliban after Mansour's death on its soil, said the drone strike had undermined the so-called quadrilateral peace process involving Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United States and China. But foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz, who said the United States informed Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif of the strike against Mansour three-and-a-half hours before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said contacts would resume.
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. 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. 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. The Taliban have made big gains since NATO forces ended their main combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014 and now control more of the country than at any time since they were ousted by U.S.-led forces in 2001.
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. 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. Confirming the attack, reportedly authorized by Obama, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a news conference Sunday, "Yesterday, the United States conducted a precision air strike that targeted Taliban leader Mullah Mansour in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border." Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and defense ministry spokesman Daulat Waziri also gave similar statements.
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. 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 160 km west of Quetta, May 21, 2016. Although the Afghan Taliban is yet to release an official statement about Mansour's death, a senior Taliban commander, Mullah Abdul Rauf, told the Associated Press that Mansour had been killed in an airstrike late Friday "in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area."
Drone attacks killed eight men suspected of belonging to al Qaeda in southern Yemen on Saturday night, local residents said, as a U.S. campaign against the militant group goes on amid a wider civil war in the country. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has taken advantage of a war pitting the Iran-allied Houthis against forces loyal to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to grab territory and operate more openly. The United States has kept up a drone campaign against the militants, although it evacuated the last of its military and intelligence personnel from Yemen in March last year. At least 50 al Qaeda militants were killed in a U.S. air strike on an al Qaeda training camp in the mountains of southern Yemen, medics and a local official said on March 22.