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Afghans: Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour dead in strike

By Allen Cone
Afghans: Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour dead in strike
Militant group National Directorate of Security confirmed on Twitter that Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a raid on Saturday.

KABUL, Afghanistan, May 22 (UPI) -- The death of the Taliban's leader was announced Sunday by the Afghanistan government and members of the insurgent movement.

On Saturday, the Pentagon said that the U.S. military carried out a drone strike on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border that apparently appeared killed Mullah Akhtar Mansour.

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Mullah Abdul Rauf, a senior commander of the militant group National Directorate of Security, said that Mansour had died in the strike. The office of Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan president, also announced the death.

But there has been no identification of a body.

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"We are confident, but at this point we do not have indisputable facts that he is dead," said Brig. Gen. Charles H. Cleveland, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said on Sunday.

The U.S. Department of Defense said Mansour was targeted while travelling in a convoy near the town of Ahmad Wal in the southern Pakistani province of Balochistan.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Mansour had posed "a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. personnel."

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Kerry, on a visit to Myanmar, said: "This action sends a clear message to the world that we will continue to stand with our Afghan partners as they work to build a more stable, united, secure and prosperous Afghanistan.

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Kerry said the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan were notified of the airstrike.

Mansour publicly took over the Taliban in July 2015, replacing Taliban founder and spiritual head Mullah Mohammad Omar, who had been dead for two years.

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A spokesman for Ghani said said: "Our hope in the wake of the strike is for the Afghan-led peace process to bring lasting peace and stability."

The drone strike was carried out by U.S. special forces and was authorized directly by President Barack Obama, the Pentagon said.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook on Saturday said Mansour was "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. [Mansour] has been an obstacle to peace and reconciliation between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, prohibiting Taliban leaders from participating in peace talks with the Afghan government that could lead to an end to the conflict."

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