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US Airstrike kills Afghan Taliban Leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, leaves no clear successor

Jamali said documents recovered identify the men as Mohammad Azam, who was a taxi driver, and Wali Mohammad, a passenger.

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Photo taken on cellphone purports to show the destroyed vehicle in which Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour was traveling in the Ahmad Wal area in Baluchistan province of Pakistan, near Afghanistan's border, May 22, 2016. Image source: VOA

The Afghan intelligence agency NDS confirmed Sunday that Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was killed in an airstrike in Pakistan near the Afghan border.

A brief NDS statement released Sunday on its official Twitter and Facebook accounts said, “Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was killed in the airstrike yesterday at 3:45 p.m. in Dalbandin, Baluchistan.”

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office in Kabul also issued a statement Sunday, saying, “The government of Afghanistan is in the process of reviewing the final details of this operation concerning the fate of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor and will publicly announce the results as soon as possible.”

It said the Taliban leader was “engaged in deception, concealment of facts, drug-smuggling and terrorism while intimidating, maiming and killing innocent Afghans.”

FILE - Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, leader of the Afghan Taliban, is seen in this undated handout photo from the Taliban. Credit:VOA
FILE – Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, leader of the Afghan Taliban, is seen in this undated handout photo from the Taliban. Credit:VOA

Earlier, a U.S. official who spoke on background said the strike was authorized by President Barack Obama and occurred Saturday afternoon, local time.

The official said several unmanned aircraft operated by U.S. special operations forces targeted a vehicle southwest of the town of Ahmad Wal in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. An adult male who was traveling with Mansoor was also reported likely killed in the strike.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday during a visit to Myanmar that Mansoor was targeted because he posed “an imminent threat to U.S. personnel, Afghan civilians and Afghan security forces,” and that Mansoor “was directly opposed to peace negotiations.”

Meanwhile, a Pakistani security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told VOA the border town where the airstrike took place is divided between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that the drone strike actually took place on the Afghan side of the border.

That location conflicts with the Afghan intelligence agency statement.

Depending an the actual location of the strike, it could be the first time U.S. drones are known to have targeted Taliban fighters inside Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

All other known drone strikes inside Pakistan have occurred in the country’s federal administered tribal areas, a semiautonomous region along the Afghan border where Pakistan’s military has battled militants for years.

It is also rare for U.S. Special Forces to carry out drone strikes inside Pakistan. The CIA is typically in charge of the covert strikes that target senior terrorist leaders in the country.

The elimination of Mansoor will deal a critical blow to the Taliban, which has struggled with internal divisions over its leadership since July 2015 when the insurgent group announced its founder and first leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, had been dead for more than two years.

The United States has not designated the Afghan Taliban as a terrorist group.

US policy

U.S. policy in Afghanistan generally allows coalition aircraft to target enemy fighters only when they can be identified as al-Qaida or Islamic State group loyalists, or when militants are directly threatening NATO personnel.

Earlier this month, a senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan told reporters that there are signs that al-Qaida terrorists have been working more with the Taliban since Mansoor took charge.

Brigadier General Charles Cleveland said, however, U.S. forces “are not in — necessarily in direct combat with the Taliban.” He said that the expectation is that Afghan government forces are the ones mainly engaging the Taliban, and U.S. forces are there to help them.

On Friday, David Petraeus, the former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and former head of the CIA, called for loosening restrictions on U.S. airstrikes against Afghan Taliban fighters.

In an essay published in The Wall Street Journal, Petraeus and his co-author, military analyst Michael O’Hanlon, said because of the Taliban’s long ties with al-Qaida and the Haqqani network, its aims of overthrowing the Afghan government, and its continuing push to seize territory, the United States should rely more on air power to help defeat the group.

2 killed in strike

In another development, doctors in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan, said Sunday they had received two bodies from the remote border district of Noshki, the scene of the U.S strike.

Dr. Rashid Jamali, duty officer at the city’s Civil Hospital, told VOA the bodies were retrieved by locals in the Ahmed Wal town before they were transported to Quetta.

Jamali said documents recovered identify the men as Mohammad Azam, who was a taxi driver, and Wali Mohammad, a passenger.

Witnesses in Noshki say the taxi was attacked from the air Saturday afternoon and the victims were brought to the district hospital before they were transferred to Quetta, the original destination of the vehicle.

It is not clear if the incident is related to the attack against Mansoor. (VOA)

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  • Pritam Go Green

    Its good to hear that the world superpowers are working to eradicate this evil from our society.
    Good job United States !! This has become a major threat to very existence of humanity. This terror grp needs to be eliminated asap !!

Next Story

US Hate Groups Increases by 7% in 2 years, Hit Record

US Hate Groups Hit Record Number Last Year Amid Increased Violence.

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US, Hate Groups, Violence
FILE - A neo-Nazi attends a rally in Newnan, Georgia, April 21, 2018. VOA

The white supremacist group Identity Evropa more than doubled the number of its chapters.

The violent neo-Nazi organization Atomwaffen Division grew from one chapter to 27.

The white nationalist group and podcasting site The Right Stuff boasted 34 chapters.

American hate groups had a bumper year in 2018 as a surge in black and white nationalist groups lifted their number to a new record high, the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a report issued Wednesday.

The Alabama-based legal advocacy organization recorded 1,020 active hate groups last year, up 7 percent from 2017. The previous record tallied by SPLC was 1,018 in 2011 amid a white extremist backlash against the presidency of Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president.

US, hate groups, violence
Number of hate groups in US have increased from 497 to 1020 within two decades. Pixabay

The increase was driven by growth in both black and white nationalist groups, the SPLC said. The number of white nationalist groups jumped from 100 to 148, while the number of black nationalist groups — typically anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ and anti-white — rose from 233 to 264.

The SPLC defines a hate group as “an organization that, based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities, has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

The number of hate groups has grown every year for the past four years, the SPLC said, a 30 percent increase roughly coinciding with President Donald Trump’s election campaign and presidency. The increase followed three years of decline toward the end of the Obama administration.

Hate crimes

Hate crimes have followed a similar trajectory in recent years. After falling for three consecutive years, attacks on blacks, Jews, Muslims and other minorities increased by 30 percent in the three-year period ending in 2017, according to the latest FBI data.

US, hate group, violence
FILE – A man is detained while white supremacist Jason Kessler arrives at the Vienna metro station in Vienna, Va., Aug. 12, 2018. White nationalists are gathering in Washington on the first anniversary of their rally in Charlottesville. VOA

The uptrend continued into last year, with hate crimes in America’s 30 largest cities surging by an additional 10 percent, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

The majority of hate crimes are nonviolent, but some incidents were deadly. White supremacists in the U.S. and Canada killed at least 40 people last year, up from 17 people the year before, according to the SPLC’s tally.

While most bias-motivated offenses are not committed by members of hate groups, the perpetrators of hate crimes draw inspiration from ideas put out by hate groups, said Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project and author of the report.

‘Go-ahead’ from Trump

Beirich blamed Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim statements and policies for heightening deep-seated white nationalist fears of an impending white-minority country.

US, hate group, violence
FILE – In this Feb. 19, 2017 file photo, people carry posters during a rally against President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, in New York’s Times Square. VOA

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than half of the nation’s children are expected to be nonwhite in 2020, while the U.S. population is slated to become majority-minority in 2044.

“Rather than trying to tamp down hate, as presidents of both parties have done, President Trump elevates it with both his rhetoric and his policies,” Beirich said. “In doing so, he’s given people across America the go-ahead to act on their worst instincts.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Black nationalist groups, which advocate separate institutions or even a separate nation, made up about a quarter of hate groups tracked in 2018.

But the SPLC said the black extremist groups “lagged far behind the more than 700 groups that adhere to some form of white supremacist ideology,” the report said.

Among white extremist groups, the SPLC counted 112 neo-Nazi groups, 148 white nationalist organizations, 63 racist skinhead groups, 36 neo-Confederate outfits and 17 Christian Identity organizations.

KKK falling

But not all white hate groups thrived last year. The number of Ku Klux Klan (KKK) chapters fell for the third straight year, dropping to 51 in 2018 from 130 in 2016.

US, hate groups, violence
FILE – Members of the Ku Klux Klan participate in cross burnings in rural Paulding County near Cedar Town, Georgia, April 23, 2016. VOA

With its outdated traditions and penchant for white robes, the KKK, the nation’s oldest racist organization, has failed to appeal to young white tech-savvy racists, the SPLC said.

“It may be that the KKK, having somehow endured since 1866, is finally on its last legs,” the report said.

The SPLC started tracking KKK chapters in 1987 and later expanded its list to include other hate groups. In recent years, as it has put new groups on its list, including anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ organizations, conservative groups have accused the SPLC of unfairly labeling them.

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Last month, the Center for Immigration Studies sued the SPLC in federal court in Washington for “falsely designating” it as a hate group in 2016, saying the SPLC has produced no evidence that the group maligns immigrants as a class.

Beirich said the SPLC is standing by its hate group listings. (VOA)