Roughly three months after the US offered a $5 million reward for information on his whereabouts, Pakistani Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah was killed in a joint US-Afghan drone strike in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar, which is on the Pakistani border, senior defense officials from Afghanistan and Pakistan told Reuters and the New York Times on Thursday .
In addition to Fazlullah, four other senior Taliban commanders were killed in the drone strike, which took place Wednesday. That attack was carried out in the Afghan province of Kunar, which is situated near the Pakistani border.
"I confirm that Mullah Fazlullah, leader of the Pakistani Taliban, has been killed in an joint air operation in the border area of Marawera district of Kunar province," Mohammad Radmanish, spokesman for Afghan defense ministry, told Reuters, adding the air strike was carried out at about 9 a.m. on Thursday.
According to Reuters, the attack - which occurred at a time when relations between the US and Pakistan were finally beginning to heal after President Trump threatened to withhold aid from the country and accused it of sheltering militants early this year - could help ease strained ties between Washington and Islamabad.
Islamabad is seen as an important ally that could help reopen negotiations with Taliban leaders as the US desperately searches for an exit strategy to end the 17-year-old war (which Trump's Pentagon escalated last year by electing to send in 4,000 more US troops). The US and Afghanistan have accused Pakistan of sheltering the Pakistani Taliban (who are a separate entity from the Afghan Taliban) though Pakistan claims the Pakistani branch of the Taliban retreat to sanctuaries across the border in Afghanistan. However, in recent months, Pakistan and the US have been cooperating more closely in the hopes of jump-starting peace talks. Case in point: Pakistan army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, visited Kabul just days before the attack to discuss the peace process.
Mullah Fazlullah, center
Fazlullah reportedly presided over notorious attacks in Pakistan like the 2014 massacre that killed 132 children attending an army-run school in the city of Peshawar, as well as the 2012 shooting of Malala Yousafzai, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, according to the NYT.
A spokesman for the US military confirmed that a drone strike was carried out in Kunar province on Wednesday and that "a senior leader of a designated terrorist organization" had been killed, but didn't offer further details or confirm that the target was Fazlullah, who has been the most-wanted militant in Pakistan for years. The Pakistani Taliban also confirmed Fazlullah's death, which has previously been incorrectly reported, according to Al Jazeera.