A top Pakistani militant who had a $3 million U.S. bounty on his head has been killed in Afghanistan, three senior leaders of his group told NBC News.
Abdul Wali, also known as Omar Khalid Khurasani, was killed Sunday in a car accident in the southeastern province of Paktika, according to sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the attack had not yet been publicly announced.
Khurasani was a senior leader of the Pakistani Taliban, known as the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan or TTP, which seeks to overthrow the nuclear-armed government of Pakistan and replace it with a strict version of Islamic law. The Pakistani Taliban are a separate group, but they are allied with the Taliban militants who seized back power in Afghanistan as the United States withdrew a year ago.
The death of Khurasani could jeopardize peace talks between the TTP and the Pakistani government, which are being facilitated by the Afghan Taliban.
Sources of the Pakistani Taliban didn't say who they believed was responsible for the attack on Khurasani and his three aides.
A senior member of the group said they received bodies and began investigations to determine whether they died in an IED blast, drone strike or if they were shot dead.
After those investigations are completed, we will issue a detailed statement on whether to continue the peace talks with Pakistan. The governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
Reports of Khurasani's death in Afghanistan come a week after the U.S. said it killed Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in an attack in Kabul, the Afghan capital.
In 2014, Khurasani split from the TTP to form his own militant faction, Jamaat-ul-Arar, which the United Nations and the U.S. have designated as a terrorist organization. Jamaat-ul- Ahrar, who later joined the TTP, is accused of killing hundreds of people in multiple attacks on Pakistani forces and religious minorities, particularly Christians and Shiite Muslims.
In March 2018, the Department of State offered up to $3 million for information on Khurasani under its Rewards for Justice program. He is wanted by the government of Pakistan, which has conducted massive military operations against the TTP, which has pushed many of the militants across the border into Afghanistan.
Since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year, the group, founded in 2007, has experienced a resurgence, and Pakistan accuses Afghanistan s renewed rulers of supporting it.
The Pakistani Taliban sources said that the group's senior leaders had been banned from traveling together in the same vehicle, and it was not clear why Khurasani and his aides had done so.
The body of Khurasani was taken to Nangarhar province, where he was based and laid to rest Monday.
A senior member of the group said that we could not attend the funeral due to the fear of drone strikes, as the drones were flying over parts of Nangarhar and Kunar provinces.
Mushtaq Yusufzai reported from Peshawar, Pakistan, and Jennifer Jett reported from Hong Kong.