The Afghan Defense Ministry on Friday afternoon confirmed that Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Mullah Fazlullah was killed in a drone strike on Wednesday in Kunar Province.
Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish told TOLOnews that the strike happened at about 2:30am local time.
“Fazlullah along with his men were killed at about 2:30am local time in Marawayra district along the Durand Line in Kunar province in a drone strike,” Radmanish said.
Earlier Friday reliable sources told TOLOnews that Fazlullah had been killed in Kunar Province in Afghanistan.
This is not however the first time reports have emerged of the death of Fazlullah after the elusive chief of the banned group was named TTP chief in late 2013. He succeeded Hakimullah Mehsud who was killed in a drone strike in November of that year.
US Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Martin O’Donnell meanwhile confirmed the US Forces conducted a counterterrorism strike on Wednesday in Kunar province and that a senior leader of a terrorist organization had been targeted.
However, he did not reveal the identity of the target or the name of the group. He also stated that US-Forces were adhering to government’s ceasefire with the Taliban but that the ceasefire does not include counterterrorism efforts against Daesh, Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.
"US 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,” he told TOLOnews.
“US Forces-Afghanistan and NATO-led Resolute Support forces continue to adhere to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan's unilateral cease-fire with the Afghan Taliban, announced by H.E. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, which began on the twenty-seventh day of Ramadan.
“As previously stated, the cease-fire does not include US counterterrorism efforts against IS-K (Daesh), Al-Qaeda, and other regional and international terrorist groups, or the inherent right of US and international forces to defend ourselves if attacked. We hope this pause leads to dialogue and progress on reconciliation and a lasting end to hostilities," he said.
In the meantime, military and political affairs analysts said Pakistan may have been involved in the death of Fazlullah, because of his suspected involvement in organizing attacks inside Pakistan.
According to analysts, because Fazlullah was in Kunar, Islamabad continually accused Afghanistan of supporting groups that target Pakistan.
“The presence of Mullah Fazlullah in Afghanistan had caused Pakistan to claim that the Afghan government supports groups who are against Pakistan. Fazlullah was living in an area in Kunar province which is not under government control,” Saleh Mohammad Registani, a military affairs analyst said.
“He was not killed randomly and doubtless it is good day and good news for Pakistan,” Zaman Gul Dehati, director of Peace and Development Organization.
“Mullah Fazlullah was the only person that was organizing suicide attacks and explosions inside Pakistan. Thus, I think Pakistan may have been involved in killing him,” Mohammad Agul Mujahid, political affairs analyst said.
Officials have in the past said Fazlullah directed numerous high-profile attacks against US and Pakistani targets over the years.
He has in the past been blamed for attacks such as the December 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar that killed 151 people, including more than 130 children.
Reports also emerged a few years ago that he had ordered the 2012 attempted assassination of Malala Yousafzai, who had been advocating for the right of girls to have access to an education.
In March this year, the US State Department offered a $5 million reward for Fazlullah, the same month Pakistani sources said his son was killed in a US drone strike on a TTP training facility.
For years Pakistan said Fazlullah was living on Afghan soil – but the Afghan government refused to accept Islamabad’s claim.