Top Pakistan Taliban fugitive killed in Afghanistan
Taliban fighters (REPRSENTATIVE PHOTO) (Photo by MOHD RASFAN/AFP via Getty Images)
A high-profile member of the Pakistan Taliban has been killed in Afghanistan, a senior security official said Monday, after being on the run since 2014 when the army cracked down on the militant Islamist group.
Muhammad Khurasani, spokesman for the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), died in the eastern province of Nangarhar, the official said, asking not to be named.
“We are in the process of gathering information from Afghanistan on how he was tracked down and killed,” the official added, declining to say who was responsible.
Afghan officials in Nangarhar told AFP they were checking the reports.
Khurasani’s death comes weeks after another senior Pakistan Taliban leader escaped unhurt from a suspected drone strike on a safe house in eastern Afghanistan.
It is still not clear who was responsible for that attack, though Pakistan does have the capability and the United States said it may still carry out strikes even after withdrawing from Afghanistan on August 31.
The TTP — a separate movement that shares roots with Afghanistan’s Taliban — plunged Pakistan into a period of horrific violence after forming in 2007.
Pakistan officials have said Khurasani — whose real name is Khalid Balti — ran a “terrorist training camp” in rugged North Waziristan before fleeing to Afghanistan after the army crackdown.
“He masterminded several attacks in close liaison with the TTP chief Noor Wali Mehsud on Pakistani security forces and innocent citizens while hiding in Afghanistan,” the security official said.
The TTP has been blamed for hundreds of suicide bomb attacks and kidnappings across the country, and for a while held sway over vast tracts of the country’s rugged tribal belt, imposing a radical version of Islamic law.
But, after the 2014 massacre of nearly 150 children at a Peshawar school, the Pakistan military sent huge numbers of troops into TTP strongholds and crushed the movement, forcing its fighters to retreat to Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s government announced late last year it had entered a month-long truce with the TTP, facilitated by Afghanistan’s Taliban, but that expired on December 9 after peace talks failed to make progress.