The Taliban on Tuesday pulled passengers from several buses in northern Afghanistan, killed at least 16 of them and took dozens of others hostage, officials said.
“The Taliban shot dead 16 passengers,” said Sayed Mahmood Danish, spokesman for the governor of Kunduz province, where the incident occurred. Police commander Shir Aziz Kamawal gave a slightly higher death toll of 17.
Earlier, the United States carried out an air strike on the leader of the Afghan Taliban, probably killing him in a remote area just inside the Pakistan border in an operation likely to sink any immediate prospect for peace talks.
If confirmed, the death of Mullah Akhtar Mansour may open up a battle for succession and deepen fractures that emerged in the insurgent movement after the death of its founder Mullah Mohammad Omar was confirmed last year, more than two years after he died.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry told media that Afghanistan must limit military gains by the Taliban and offer incentives to the insurgents to revive a faltering peace effort. The foreign secretary said efforts to persuade the Taliban to talk directly to the Kabul government could only bear fruit if the Afghan army stopped the Taliban from gaining the upper hand.