Taliban chief who ordered Malala assassination 'killed in airstrike'

Undated footage of Mullah Fazlullah is shown on a projector  - AP Video
Undated footage of Mullah Fazlullah is shown on a projector - AP Video

The head of the Pakistan Taliban has been targeted and is believed killed in a United States drone strike in eastern Afghanistan.

Afghan officials said Mullah Fazlullah, who is one of the world's most wanted militant leaders, had been killed in Kunar province.

As well as terrorist outrages, he also spearheaded a campaign against a government polio vaccination programme, claiming it was a "conspiracy of Jews and Christians to make Muslims impotent and stunt the growth of Muslims”.

News of the attack came as Afghanistan waited to see if a unprecedented three-day Afghan Taliban ceasefire would hold over the Eid holiday period. Photos shared on social media in the country appeared to show fighters and Afghan forces celebrating the truce together.

Mullah Fazlullah became notorious for ordering a string of attacks including the 2014 massacre of scores of pupils at an army school in Peshawar and the failed assassination of schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai.

His group has also been linked to terrorist plots inside America.

Afghanistan's defence ministry said Fazlullah had been “killed in a joint Afghan and US operation”, while a spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan would only say the US had struck “a senior leader of a designated terrorist organisation”.

The militant leader has wrongly been claimed dead before and a Pakistan security source said his death was as yet “not possible to verify”.

A member of the Taliban told Reuters the group was trying to get word if its leader was dead.

Malala Yousafzai is now a student at Oxford - Credit: AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
Malala Yousafzai is now a student at Oxford Credit: AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images

He said: "We have been hearing since early Friday that our Emir was martyred along with four other militant commanders in Marawar area of Kunar. They were staying at a house when the drone fired missiles and martyred them.”

Fazlullah, believed to be aged in his mid-forties, has led the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) since 2013 and had a $5m American reward for information on his head.

The TTP in December 2014, carried out the deadliest terrorist attack in Pakistan's history when militants killed 151 people including more than 130 children, during an attack against the Army Public School in Peshawar.

He first rose to prominence inside Pakistan's Swat valley with fiery radio tirades that earned him the nickname Mullah Radio.

His broadcasts opposed America, female education and vaccination programmes while advocating a strict form of Islamic law. While in Swat

When Ms Yousafzai publicly challenged the Taliban's stance in Swat, Fazlullah ordered the 14-year-old be killed, though she survived and went on to be awarded the Nobel peace prize.

The US State Department says the TTP has "demonstrated a close alliance with Al-Qaeda" and had given explosives training to Faisal Shahzad, the would-be Times Square bomber.

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Meanwhile the Nato-led coalition in Afghanistan said the Taliban ceasefire appeared to be holding on Friday. Afghans used social media to share photographs purporting to show Taliban fighters and members of the Afghan force celebrating the truce together.