Pakistan’s interior minister said on Tuesday he could not confirm that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour had been killed in a U.S. drone strike, and described Washington’s justification for the attack as “against international law”.
U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday that Mansour had been killed in the drone strike, and the Pentagon said separately that Mansour was plotting attacks that posed “specific, imminent threats” to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
On Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters that the body recovered on Pakistani soil, near the Afghan border, was charred beyond recognition, adding that DNA samples would be tested against a relative who had come forward to claim the body.
“The government of Pakistan cannot announce this without a scientific and legal basis,” Khan told a news briefing.
He did not identify the relative or say whether he or she claimed to be related to the Taliban leader or someone else.
Two U.S. officials told Reuters that U.S. intelligence and military agencies used multiple streams of intelligence, including human intelligence and electronic surveillance to locate and identify the car carrying Mansour.
That enabled multiple drones operated by the Joint Special Operations Command to incinerate the car when it reached an empty stretch of road in a remote area where there was little danger of causing civilian casualties.
“There were multiple forms of intelligence attributed to tracking him down,” a U.S. official said.
Khan rejected the U.S. argument that it could launch attacks across borders in order to protect its interests.
“For the U.S. government to say that whoever is a threat to them will be targeted wherever they are, that is against international law,” he said. “And if every country in the world adopts this rule, it will be the law of the jungle.”
Pakistan and the United States have been uneasy allies in the war against the Taliban and other Islamist militants in the region.
Critics in Afghanistan and the United States accuse Pakistan of allowing the Afghan Taliban’s leadership to take shelter on its territory, something that Islamabad has denied.
The militant movement has made territorial gains and carried out a series of deadly attacks across Afghanistan since NATO forces officially wound down their combat mission at the end of 2014, undermining the Western-backed government in Kabul.
Recent events echo those in 2011, when U.S. special forces raided a building in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad that killed longtime al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, infuriating and severely embarrassing Islamabad. (Courtesy Reuters)