- Pakistan says US drone strike violated its airspace
- US says Islamabad was informed
- Body still to be formally identified
The apparent death of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a US drone strike has caused a diplomatic row. Pakistan has accused the United States of violating its airspace by targeting Mansour’s vehicle in south-west Pakistan, near the Afghan border.
Islamabad has issued a press release saying the US government did not inform Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif beforehand.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has defended the strike:
“We have had longstanding conversations with Pakistan and Afghanistan about this objective with respect to Mullah Mansour, and both countries’ leaders were notified of the air strike. Mullah Mansour, as I said a moment ago, has been actively involved in planning attacks in Kabul, across Afghanistan, presenting a threat to Afghan civilians and to the coalition forces that are there.”
A taxi driver is also thought to have been killed in the strike. The passenger thought to be Mansour had a passport under the name Wali Muhammad and was returning from Iran. Pakistan says he has yet to be formally identified. So far only Afghanistan has confirmed Mansour’s death, however Taliban sources claim possible successors are being discussed by its leadership council. There is also speculation that the talks could spiral into a battle for the leadership.
Mansour became chief of the Afghan Taliban in July 2015, replacing Taliban founder and spiritual head Mullah Mohammad Omar.
Analysts say he was consolidating his power over the movement by bringing in a son and a brother of his predecessor and by launching large scale attacks on Afghan security forces.
Under his leadership, the Taliban managed to capture an important city last year for the first time in 15 years.