KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Nasir-ul-Mulk described the killing of Pakistan Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah in a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan as a “significant development in the fight against terrorism.”
Mulk made the comment in a telephone conversation Friday night with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and thanked him for sharing information about Fazlullah’s killing, said a Pakistan government statement.
The call was initiated by Ghani, who tweeted that Fazlullah’s killing was “the result of tireless human intel by Afghan security agencies.”
A U.S. official said the U.S. believes that it is likely the strike killed Fazlullah, but efforts are ongoing to confirm his death. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss preliminary information.
In his tweet, Ghani said he also called Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. In both conversations Ghani said he urged Pakistan “to take practical steps to bring Afghan Taliban residing in Pakistan to the negotiation table.”
Thursday’s drone strike, which reportedly killed Fazlullah and five other insurgents when missiles slammed into the car in which they were driving, occurred just hours before Afghanistan’s Taliban began a three-day cease fire.
The cease-fire, which took effect at midnight Thursday, marks the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which follows the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when the faithful fast from sunrise to sunset. The Afghan Taliban announced their cease-fire after Ghani unilaterally declared a temporary cease-fire for the holidays on June 7.
In Afghanistan’s eastern Logar provincial capital of Pul-e-Alam dozens of unarmed Taliban celebrated the Eid holiday, several greeting Afghan security forces, provincial police chief spokesman Shahpur Ahmadzai said Saturday in a telephone interview.
“We didn’t allow them to enter the city with their weapons,” said Ahmadzai, adding at least 80 Taliban entered the city in the last two days to visit their families.
The Associated Press spoke to Abdullah Faizani, a Taliban fighter from Logar’s Baraki district, who said it has been seven years since he has been to the provincial capital. He said he and 32 friends were in the capital on their motorcycles, many of them festooned with the Afghan flag.
“I am so happy for the cease-fire and it is sad when every day Afghans are killing each other,” said Faizani, adding that 15 of his friends died in battles with Afghan security forces in one year. They were all Taliban.
Although he wants an extended cease-fire, he said he would not lay down his weapons permanently until “all the foreign troops leave Afghanistan.”
Atta-ul-Rahman Salim, deputy head of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, said Taliban fighters from across the country were reportedly entering into government controlled areas to visit their families “and they were being welcomed by government security forces.”
Meanwhile, in his conversation with Ghani, Mulk said that Fazlullah’s death would be received throughout Pakistan with relief as Pakistanis had borne the brunt of terrorist attacks by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which Fazlullah headed.
The Pakistan government statement also said an “action had finally been taken against an enemy of the people and state of Pakistan.”
Fazlullah was killed in Afghanistan’s northeastern Kunar province. He had ordered the assassination of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai.
Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a telephone interview that he could not confirm Fazlullah’s death because of the remoteness of the area but also because Afghanistan’s Taliban are not present in that area.
Ahmed reported from Islamabad. Associated Press writer Kathy Gannon in Islamabad and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this story.