A US drone strike on Wednesday in Shindand district, Herat province, killed Mullah Nangialai, a key commander of the Taliban’s splinter group led by Mullah Rasul, according to multiple sources.
There were reports of over 30 civilians killed in the attack, but casualty numbers and other details from the Defense Ministry are still pending. A spokesperson for US forces in Afghanistan confirmed US involvement in the assault, saying it was carried out at the request of Afghan security forces.
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Questions have been raised about why Mullah Nangialai was targeted, especially considering that his leader, Mullah Rasul, allegedly has maintained ties with the Afghan government and has fought against those Taliban groups loyal to Taliban leader Mullah Hibatullah.
Mullah Nangialai became well-known after reports of the death of Taliban-founder Mullah Omar emerged back in 2015. When Mullah Akhtar Mansour announced himself as leader of the group, Mullah Rasul announced his opposition to Mansour and formed a new faction in Shindand, Herat, where US forces had a base.
Rasul made Nangialai his commander, as well as the designated governor of Herat.
Both factions – Mullah Rasul’s and Mullah Mansour’s -- fought against each other and lives were lost on both sides.
“Nangialai was one of those who cooperated with the government--the National Directorate of Security--but he had tensions with Mullah Samad over the past years that left dozens dead,” MP Sattar Hussaini said.
Some lawmakers from Herat said Nangialai kept some kind of relationship with the government when he was under pressure from the Taliban leader Mullah Hibatullah. But Mullah Rasul, the leader of the splinter faction, on many occasions denied any ties with the government.
“He (Nangialiai) raised the flag of the Taliban and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the same time and during the past three years, he has caused many deaths of innocent people,” said Sayed Taha Sadiq, an MP from Herat.
According to Herat residents, Nangialai was the son of Amanullah Zerkoh, a former Taliban commander who fought against pro-Ismail Khan fighters for years and was killed in such conflicts.
Mohammad Ismail Khan is a former mujahideen leader who served as minister of energy and water under former president Hamid Karzai.
“Recently, Mullah Rasul became completely pro-Iranian and they were operating in Shindand and they had a huge influence in the west (of Afghanistan),” retired general Atiqullah Amarkhil said.