Jamaat-ul-Ahraar confirms killing of chief Umar Khorasani in drone attack

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PESHAWAR: The Jamaat-ul-Ahraar (JuA), a breakaway faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), on Thursday confirmed the death of its chief Umar Khalid Khorasani in a US drone strike in Afghanistan’s Paktia province a couple of days ago.

“Our leader, Umar Khalid Khorasani, was wounded in one of the recent drone strikes in Afghanistan. He was wounded badly, and today [Thursday] he succumbed to his injuries,” Asad Mansoor, a JuA spokesperson, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

“At least nine close associates of Khorasani were also killed in the strike”, he added.

The JuA spokesperson’s version comes amid conflicting reports that Khorasani was among the people who were killed or injured in Monday’s US airstrike and subsequent drone attack in Paktia province of restive Afghanistan.

At least 31 people were killed in three drone strikes near the Pak-Afghan border in Afghanistan on Monday and Tuesday.

The terrorist commander hailed from village Qandari of Tehsil Safi in Mohmand Agency.

In July, Pakistan welcomed the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) decision to include JuA in the list of entities subject to travel bans, arms embargoes and freezing of assets.

The JuA based in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan has been involved in a series of terrorist attacks inside Pakistan and was declared a banned outfit in the country in 2016.

Since 2014, when the JuA first surfaced, it proved itself to be a lethal terrorist group, perpetrating some of the most brutal attacks in Pakistan.

The group has been involved in more than 100 terrorist attacks on Pakistani soil.

The JuA had also claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in a park in Lahore on Easter Sunday last year that killed 75 people including many children.

One of the founding members of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Khorasani (aka Abdul Wali) was a former journalist from Mohmand agency. Within organisational circles, he was known as a formidable military commander. He was also given additional charge of the Khyber agency chapter for a brief period where he orchestrated a bloody campaign against government-backed lashkars (militias).

Khorasani was TTP’s Mohmand Agency chief but in September 2014, TTP chief Mullah Fazlullah ousted him after he and his associates accused the TTP leadership of deviating from the TTP ideology, leading to the formation of splinter group TTP Jamaat-ul-Ahrar.

Khorasani previously led a faction called Ahrarul Hind, which claimed several attacks during a ceasefire period between the government and Taliban in 2014, including one on an Islamabad court complex that killed 12 people.

Analysts believe Khorasani had strong links to Al Qaeda and its chief, Ayman Al-Zawahiri. In 2015, Khorasani declared allegiance to the Islamic State (IS), however, in 2017, he withdrew his allegiance.