A senior commander of the Afghan Taliban confirmed Sunday that the group's leader, Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour, has been killed in a US drone strike. Mullah Abdul Rauf, who recently reconciled with Mansour after initially rebelling against his ascension to the leadership, told the AP that Mansour died in the strike late Friday "in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area." Afghanistan's intelligence agency confirmed Sunday that Mansour had been killed. Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said that Mansour is "more than likely" dead. Abdullah said Mansour's death would have a positive impact on attempts to bring peace to Afghanistan, where the Taliban have been waging an insurgency for 15 years. Mansour was "the main figure preventing the Taliban joining the peace process," Abdullah said. "From the day he took over the Taliban following the death of Mullah Omar, he intensified violence against ordinary citizens, especially in Afghanistan."
US Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday repeatedly referred to Mansour in the past tense, saying "Mansur was a threat to that (peace) effort. He also was directly opposed to peace negotiations and to the reconciliation process. It is time for Afghans to stop fighting and to start building a real future together." Mansour formally led the Taliban after the death was announced last summer of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the movement's founder. Mansour, Mullah Omar's deputy, concealed Mullah Omar's death for more than two years, and ran the Taliban in his name until the death was revealed by the Afghan government. A senior Afghan official said Mansour controlled a substantial financial empire, largely built on smuggling drugs produced in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province. Different Taliban factions have recently fought over control of smuggling routes. "When they started fighting for power, that was the erosion of the legitimacy of their own rank and file," he said.