Islamabad finally confirms Taliban chief’s death in drone strike following DNA test.
The brother of a man who was killed alongside the Taliban’s slain chief Mullah Akthar Mansour in an American drone strike in southwest Pakistan is pressing murder and terrorism charges against U.S. officials, police claimed on Sunday.
Mansour was traveling by car near the town of Ahmad Wal on May 21 when he was killed, a major blow to the Islamist group that has been waging a guerilla war in Afghanistan since being toppled from power in 2001. U.S. officials described the car’s driver as a “second male combatant” but according to Pakistani security officials he was a chauffeur named Mohammad Azam who worked for the Al Habib rental company based out of Quetta.
His brother, Mohammad Qasim, said Azam was an innocent man who was providing for his four children and had been murdered. “U.S. officials whose name I do not know accepted responsibility in the media for this incident, so I want justice and request legal action against those responsible for it,” said Qasim in a police report dated May 25, a copy of which was seen by AFP. “My brother was innocent, he was very poor and he has left behind four small children. He was the lone breadwinner in the family,” he added. “My aim is to prove the innocence of my brother as he is being portrayed as a militant, but he was just a driver,” Qasim told AFP on the telephone.
He said that so far the family had not sought any compensation for Azam’s death.
Local police and administration officials on Sunday confirmed charges had been filed, but declined to comment on what steps authorities would take to pursue the case, if any.
Despite Qasim’s statement, a police official speaking on condition of anonymity claimed he had lodged the case at the behest of Pakistan’s military. “An official of the Balochistan paramilitary Levies Force brought us the written complaint signed by Mohammad Qasim,” he claimed to Newsweek. His claims were not independently verifiable.
Meanwhile, a spokesman from the Interior Ministry on Sunday confirmed Mansour’s killing following a DNA match with one of his relatives who had come from Afghanistan to take the body. Islamabad had not previously confirmed Mansour’s death.
“It has been confirmed that one of the men who was killed in the drone attack was Tehreek-e-Taliban Afghanistan former chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour,” the spokesman said in a statement. “The identification was confirmed after a DNA test which was matched with a close relative of Mullah Mansour who had come from Afghanistan to receive his body.”
Mansour was appointed head of the Taliban in July 2015 and was succeeded on Wednesday by his deputy Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada.
The U.S. has carried out hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan, mainly in the border tribal regions with Afghanistan, and leaked documents show Islamabad had quietly consented despite publicly protesting. But this was the first by the U.S. in Balochistan province and Pakistan angrily denounced it as a violation of its sovereignty.
Islamabad says it hosts many of the Afghan Taliban’s top leadership to exert influence over them and bring them back to peace talks with Kabul.
Drone attacks have proven extremely controversial with the Pakistani public and rights groups. In 2013, Amnesty International said the U.S. could be guilty of war crimes by carrying out extrajudicial killings. A separate report on drone strikes in Yemen by Human Rights Watch accused the U.S. of killing civilians and causing disproportionate civilian harm.