ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office confirmed on Sunday that the Pakistani leadership had been informed about the United States (US) drone strike in the country, against the Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Mansour a day earlier.
Mansour was reported killed in a drone strike in Balochistan near the Afghan border.
According to the statement issued by the Foreign Office, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif were informed about the drone strike that likely killed Mansour.
The statement says: “According to the information gathered so far, a person named Wali Muhammad S/o Shah Muhammad carrying a Pakistani passport and an I.D. Card, resident of Qilla Abdullah, entered Pakistan from Taftan border on 21st May. His passport was bearing a valid Iranian visa. He was travelling on a vehicle hired from a transport company in Taftan. This vehicle was found destroyed at Kochaki along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The driver’s name was Muhammad Azam whose body has been identified and collected by his relatives. The identity of the second body is being verified on the basis of evidence found at the site of the incident and other relevant information.”
The statement adds that the drone attack was a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and said Islamabad wanted to remind the world that the fifth meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) held on May 18 had reiterated that a politically negotiated settlement was the only viable option for lasting peace in Afghanistan.
Two Pakistani intelligence officials earlier told AFP the drones struck a Toyota Corolla near Quetta, killing two people whose bodies were burned beyond recognition.
The FO’s statement comes hours after it said Pakistan was “seeking clarification” on the reported drone strike targeting Mansour.
Speaking to media upon his arrival in British capital, London, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif too confirmed he was informed about the drone strike but said that whether the man killed was Mullah Mansoor or not, is yet to be determined.
“John Kerry telephoned me yesterday night and told me about the drone strike,” said Nawaz.
The PM, however, added that such strikes are against the sovereignty of the state.
Earlier on Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry also stated that he had notified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by telephone of a US drone strike that ‘likely killed’ Mullah Mansour.
The Afghan leadership was also apprised of the strike ordered by US President Barack Obama, Kerry said.
‘Quite likely dead’
Moreover, a senior commander with the Afghan Taliban said Mansour was killed in a US drone strike. Mullah Abdul Rauf told The Associated Press Sunday that Mansour died in the strike late Friday night. He said the strike took place “in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area”.
Two Pakistani intelligence officials told AFP the drones struck a Toyota Corolla near Quetta, killing two people whose bodies were burned beyond recognition.
They did not confirm whether Mansour was among them but said the bodies had been moved to a hospital in Quetta.
Separately, a member of the Quetta Shura, the Afghan Taliban’s leadership council, told AFP that Mansour had been unreachable on his mobile phone since Saturday night.
“We are not sure if something is really wrong or he purposely switched off his phone fearing an attack,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Former ambassador to Afghanistan Rustam Shah Mohmand weighing in on the matter told DawnNews that it is “quite likely” Mansour is dead.
After Mansour’s elimination
The drone attack came just days after representatives from the US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan held another round of negotiations in Islamabad aimed at reviving long-stalled direct peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
The elimination of Mansour, who swiftly consolidated power following a bitter Taliban leadership struggle after the death of Mullah Omar was revealed last year, could spark new succession battles within the fractious movement.
It is possible there may be infighting in the Taliban regarding succession after Mansour’s death, particularly between Mullah Omar’s brother Mullah Abdul Manan and son Mullah Yaqub, and Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Haqqani network chief, Rustam Shah Mohmand said, as Haqqani was Mansour’s deputy and operational commander.
The deaths of Taliban leaders have often been falsely reported, and Mansour himself was rumoured to have been killed last December.
Mansour was formally appointed head of the Afghan Taliban in July last year following the revelation that the group’s founder Mullah Omar had been dead for two years.