Top Pakistan Taliban Commander Killed in Afghanistan

A senior commander of Pakistan’s Taliban was killed by a blast in eastern Afghanistan, a militant source told AFP.

Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) said an announcement would be made regarding “the martyrdom of a central leader,” but a source told AFP it was Abdul Wali, a notorious commander who used the alias Omar Khalid Khorasani.

His death may bring an end to a shaky indefinite ceasefire the TTP reached with the Pakistan government in June as peace talks mediated by Afghanistan’s Taliban progressed.

Pakistan’s military said Tuesday four soldiers were killed in a suicide attack on a military convoy in North Waziristan, where the TTP are prominent, bordering Afghanistan.

The Pakistan and Afghan Taliban are separate groups, but share a common ideology.

The TTP source who asked not to be identified told AFP that Wali and two other commanders were killed when their car was “targeted” in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktika province.

“When we reached his vehicle it was on fire, but the nature of the explosion is not yet clear,” he said, adding Wali was returning from a meeting with TTP chief Noor Wali Mehsud.

Wali has been a thorn in the side of Pakistan authorities for over a decade.

In 2014 he formed a separate, more-militant faction of the Taliban known as Jamaat-ul-Ahrar which claimed responsibility for some of the deadliest attacks in the country — including a suicide bomb in Lahore on Easter Sunday in 2016 that killed 75 people.

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He announced a merger with the TTP two years ago, and this June the umbrella group declared an “indefinite ceasefire” with Islamabad after peace talks brokered by the Afghan Taliban began in Kabul.

Since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan last year, Islamabad has increasingly complained of attacks by the TTP, especially along the porous frontier with Afghanistan.

Kabul insists it will not allow Afghan soil to be used by militant groups plotting against its neighbors.

Last week, President Joe Biden announced Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri was assassinated in a US drone strike in Kabul, calling into question the Taliban’s promise not to harbor militant groups.

The Taliban later issued a carefully phrased statement that neither confirmed Zawahiri’s presence in Afghanistan nor acknowledged his death.

The peace talks have angered many in Pakistan, who remember brutal attacks by the TTP — including on schools, hotels, churches, and markets.