The commander of the Taliban in Pakistan has been killed in a US drone strike in Afghanistan.
Mullah Fazlullah was Pakistan’s most-wanted militant, notorious for attacks including a 2014 school massacre that killed 132 children and the shooting in 2012 of schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai who was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The US military said it carried out an airstrike aimed at a senior militant figure in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar on the Pakistan border.
Mohammad Radmanish, spokesman for Afghan defence ministry, said: “I confirm that Mullah Fazlullah, leader of the Pakistani Taliban, has been killed in a joint air operation in the border area of Marawera district of Kunar province.”
US Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Martin O’Donnell said US forces conducted a “counter-terrorism strike” which targeted “a senior leader of a designated terrorist organisation”.
The Afghan government announced a ceasefire in the region this week and Mr O’Donnell said : “US Forces-Afghanistan and NATO-led Resolute Support forces continue to adhere to Afghanistan’s unilateral ceasefire with the Afghan Taliban.”
Fazlullah’s death could ease strained relations between Islamabad and Washington even as Afghanistan observes the three-day ceasefire with the larger Afghan Taliban.
Islamabad is considered key to persuading Afghan Taliban leaders, who Washington believes shelter in Pakistan, to open negotiations to end the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan.
A retired Pakistani brigadier, Mehmood Shah, welcomed the drone killing.
He said: “This attack shows that there is now an inclination in US policy towards Pakistan, which could further improve the security situation.”
In March, the United States offered a $5m reward for information on Fazlullah that led to him being found.
The Pakistani Taliban have brought a decade-long campaign of terror to the region but most of their fighters have now fled to Afghanistan.
They are separate from the Afghan Taliban who ruled Afghanistan for five years until they were ousted in 2001 by US military action following the 9/11 terror attacks.