The US military on Saturday carried out an airstrike that targeted the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor.
It was not immediately confirmed that he had been killed, but the Associated Press reported an American official saying the US believed Mansoor and another male had been killed in the strike, which was carried out by a drone and authorized by Barack Obama.
The official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the operation, told the AP the attack was carried out by unmanned aircraft operated by US special operations forces, at about 6am ET, south-west of the Pakistani town of Ahmad Wal.
In a statement emailed to media, the Department of Defense said it had conducted the strike “in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region”.
“We are still assessing the results of the strike and will provide more information as it becomes available,” the statement said.
The statement said Mansoor was “the leader of the Taliban and actively involved with planning attacks against facilities in Kabul and across Afghanistan, presenting a threat to Afghan civilians and security forces, our personnel and coalition partners”.
Mansoor was “an obstacle to peace and reconciliation between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban”, the Pentagon said, “prohibiting Taliban leaders from participating in peace talks with the Afghan government that could lead to an end to the conflict”.
In August, a Taliban commander who asked to stay anonymous said Mansoor was a relative moderate, “known among fighters in the field as more into peace talks than Mullah Omar, and less strict”.
Mansoor was a founding member of the Taliban, who knew Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden personally. He emerged as leader after Omar’s death, after a period of internal dissension.
In December, he was reported to have been injured in a gunfight between insurgent factions in Pakistan.
The Pentagon statement added: “Since the death of Mullah Omar and [Mansoor’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 US and coalition personnel.”
In Afghanistan on Saturday, a police official said six police were shot and killed by colleagues who turned their guns on them at a checkpoint in the volatile southern Uruzgan province.
Mohammad Hasham, head of police in the Charchino district, told the Associated Press the shooting happened in the early hours. Three of the shooters escaped the scene, he said, taking weapons and vehicles with them.
The incident followed another in the capital, Kabul, on Friday, when an Afghan security guard at a United Nations compound shot two Nepalese guards, killing one.
In southern Zabul province on Thursday, eight policemen were shot dead by a colleague. The Taliban, who have been fighting the Kabul government for 15 years, are often behind such attacks.