Family of slain Taliban chief’s driver presses charges

May 30, 2016 7:00 am

The new leader of Taliban fighters, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada. Photo / AP

The brother of a man who was killed alongside the Taliban’s slain chief Mullah Akthar Mansour in an American drone strike in southwest Pakistan is pressing murder and terrorism charges against officials.
Mansour was travelling by car near the town of Ahmad Wal on May 21 when he was killed, a major blow to the Islamist group that has been waging a guerilla war in Afghanistan since being toppled from power in 2001.
US officials described the car’s driver as a “second male combatant” but according to Pakistani security officials he was a chauffeur named Mohammad Azam who worked for the Al Habib rental company based out of Quetta, the region’s main city.
His brother, Mohammad Qasim, said Azam was an innocent man who was providing for his four children and had been murdered.
“US officials whose name I do not know accepted responsibility in the media for this incident, so I want justice and request legal action against those responsible for it,” Qasim said in a police report dated May 25, a copy of which was seen by AFP.

“My aim is to prove the innocence of my brother as he is being portrayed as a militant, but he was just a driver,” Qasim said.”My brother was innocent, he was very poor and he has left behind four small children. He was the lone breadwinner in the family,” he added.
He said that so far the family had not sought any compensation for Azam’s death.
Local police and administration officials confirmed charges had been filed, but declined to comment on what steps authorities would take to pursue the case, if any.
Meanwhile a spokesman from Pakistan’s Interior Ministry confirmed Mansour’s killing following a DNA match with one of his relatives who had come from Afghanistan to take the body.
Pakistan had not previously confirmed Mansour’s death.
Mansour was appointed head of the Taliban in July 2015 and was succeeded last week by his deputy Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada.
The US has carried out hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan, mainly in the border tribal regions with Afghanistan, and leaked documents show Islamabad had quietly consented despite publicly protesting.
But this was the first by the US in Balochistan province and Pakistan – whose spy agency has long supported the Taliban – angrily denounced it as a violation of its sovereignty.
Islamabad says it hosts many of the Afghan Taliban’s top leadership to exert influence over them and bring them back to peace talks with Kabul.
Drone attacks have proven extremely controversial with the Pakistani public and rights groups. In 2013, Amnesty International said the US could be guilty of war crimes by carrying out extrajudicial killings.
A separate report on drone strikes in Yemen by Human Rights Watch accused the US of killing civilians and causing disproportionate civilian harm.
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