PESHAWAR: There are conflicting reports that the outlawed Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) chief Omer Khalid Khurasani was among the people who were killed or injured in Monday’s US airstrike and subsequent drone attack in Paktia province of restive Afghanistan.
However, while the JuA has neither confirmed nor denied the death of its chief, there is also not much evidence as yet to confirm that one of Pakistan’s most wanted terrorists has been eliminated.
According to an official, Abdul Wali alias Khurasani was last reported to have been in Maya village of District Sarkani in Kunar province and not Paktia.
On October 16, fighter jets of the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) struck militants alleged hideout across the border in Paktia which shares border with Kurram Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and is opposite to its Ghuzgari area.
An official source said the jets targeted a Taliban compound at Zando Kali in Danda Patan of Paktia. In the said strike some militants were reportedly killed.
The source claimed that there were four bodies of the JuA militants that had also been recovered from the hideout, adding that Khurasani had been injured in the strike and later succumbed to his injuries. But both the official and local sources did not confirm.
This airstrike was reportedly followed by a drone strike on the funeral procession of those who had been killed in the first attack. It was during the second attack in which Omer Khalid Khurasani was killed, another official claimed.
Khurasani hailed from village Qandari of Tehsil Safi in Mohmand Agency. He later made his splinter group JuA after the killing of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud in 2014. The group has claimed credit for some of the most gruesome attacks in Pakistan.
Umar Mansoor’s successor announced
The outlawed TTP has named the successor of Khalifa Umar Mansoor, the group’s chief for Darra Dam Khel region, after confirming his death more than a year after her was killed in a US drone strike in Afghanistan.
“We confirm the death of Khalifa Umar Mansoor, and announce that Khalifa Usman Mansoor Hafizullah will succeed him as TTP’s ameer in Darra Adam Khel and Peshawar,” the group said in a statement emailed to journalists on Wednesday.
Khalifa Mansoor, who had claimed credit for some of the most sickening violence in the country’s history, died in a US drone strike along with three of his bodyguards on July 13, last year in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar.
At the time, Pakistani and US military officials, and Taliban sources had confirmed his death, but the TTP never publicly confirmed Mansoor, who also went by the aliases Umar Naray and Khalid Khurasani, was dead.
A few days earlier a picture of Mansoor’s body surfaced on social media, which might have prompted the TTP to confirm his death on Wednesday.
The TTP didn’t give details of how Mansoor had died, leading some media outlets to believe he had been killed in back to back US drone strikes in the Afghan province of Paktia on Tuesday.
At least 31 suspected militants were killed in a series of drone strikes and air raids by US forces in Paktia, near the border with Kurram Agency, on Tuesday and Monday.
Family had nicknamed Mansoor ‘Naray’, or slim, because he was physically frail. He was the mastermind behind the methodical massacre of dozens of pupils at the Army Public School in Peshawar in December 2014.
On Jan 20, this year, Mansoor had also claimed credit for another attack on students, this time at Bacha Khan University in Charsadda in which more than 20 people were killed and another 20 were injured.
According to Reuters, Mansoor got a high school education in Islamabad and later studied in a madrassah. He spent some time working in Karachi as a labourer before joining the TTP soon after it was formed in late 2007.