How an iftar party led to the killing of Pakistani Taliban chief

In this file photo, a Pakistani journalist watches a video of radical Pakistani cleric Maulana Fazlullah in Peshawar on July 23, 2010. (A. Majeed/AFP)
Updated 15 June 2018
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How an iftar party led to the killing of Pakistani Taliban chief

  • Mullah Fazlullah was killed on June 13 by an American drone strike
  • As soon as he entered his vehicle, a rocket fired from a US drone struck the car

DUBAI: Fazal Hayat, more commonly known as Mullah Fazlullah, the fugitive leader of the outlawed militant group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was killed on June 13 by an American drone strike. Arab News can reveal he was returning from an iftar party in the Marawara district of Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province.
According to an intelligence report seen by Arab News, Fazlullah was leaving the former militant center of the TTP at Bachai Markaz, in district Marwara, Kunar Province. He had Iftar and offered “Tiraveh” at the same center on June 13, 2018.
Fazlullah reportedly left the center around 10:45 p.m., but as soon as he entered his vehicle, a rocket fired from a US drone struck the car, killing Fazlullah and his guards.
Another TTP commander, Qari Yasir, was also among the dead, according to the report. The five men who died in the drone attack were buried in Bachai Graveyard early in the morning of June 14.
Fazlullah was reportedly a key topic of conversation during the official visit of Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and Naveed Mukhtar, director general of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, to Afghanistan on June 12, when he discussed the political and military situation in the region with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of NATO’s Resolute Support mission.
“This news today of a US drone targeting the TTP chief is an indication of some kind of ‘thaw’ between Pakistan and the USA,” an official who was part of the Pakistani delegation told Arab News, on condition of anonymity.
Bajwa’s visit came days after the Afghan Taliban announcement on June 9 of a three-day cease-fire over Eid Al-Fitr, the first truce of its kind offered by the Taliban since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
Fazlullah, who escaped a major counter-terror operation carried out by the Pakistani military in the northwestern Swat Valley in 2009, had since regrouped his fighters in the border region of Afghanistan, according to security officials.
He is believed to have been responsible for a number of atrocities, including the 2014 attack on an army-run school in Peshawar that resulted in the deaths of almost 150 students and teachers, and ordering an assassination attempt on Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai in Swat in 2012.
Fazlullah was appointed TTP chief after a US drone strike killed his predecessor Hakimullah Mehsud in the North Waziristan region in November 2013.
Fazlullah’s 17-year-old son Abdullah and 20 other militants were reportedly killed in another US drone strike in Kunar in March this year.
Fazlullah’s deputy, Noor Wali Mehsud, will most likely be his successor, according to a TTP source.
Mehsud, 40, was the TTP’s Karachi chief from June 2013 until May 2015 and is the author of the book “Inqilab-e-Mehsud,” in which he claimed to have assassinated former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
— Naimat Khan in Karachi and Tahir Khan in Islamabad contributed to this story.


US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 19 April 2019
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US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.