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The US official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the strike late Wednesday targeted Fazlullah – also referred to as ‘Mullah Radio’ – the chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
“US forces conducted a counterterrorism strike June 13 in Kunar province, close to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which targeted a senior leader of a designated terrorist organization,” a spokesman for US Forces-Afghanistan, Army Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, also told VOA Thursday, without specifying that Fazlullah was the target.
Who is Fazlullah? Here are 10 main things we know about the TTP terrorist:
1) This isn’t the first time it has been reported that a US drone strike has killed Fazlullah. Since 2010, the terrorist has been reported killed at least four times. As Michael Kugelman, a senior associate at Washington DC think tank The Wilson Centre tweeted: “Fazlullah has been dead and then not dead so many times before. Healthy skepticism is in order.”
Fazlullah has been dead and then not dead so many times before. Healthy skepticism is in order. https://t.co/IdhZ301f4k
— Michael Kugelman (@MichaelKugelman) 1529010482000
2) The US has said Fazlullah, believed to be 44 now, ordered the 2012 attempted assassination of the then 15-year-old Malala, a fierce advocate for the right of girls to have access to an education. The terrorist is believed to have stopped Malala’s school bus, boarded it and asked, ‘Who is Malala’, after which he shot her in the head. Malala survived and was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2014.
3) Fazlullah is also known as ‘Mullah Radio’, or ‘Radio Mullah, or ‘Maulana Radio’ because of his long and fiery sermons – starting 2006 – on a pirate radio station in Pakistan’s picturesque Swat Valley, the area once called ‘Pakistan’s Switzerland’, which is where Malala lived. UK newspaper The Telegraph reported in 2014 that Fazlullah’s radio sermons won him a large audience of female admirers, who donated jewellery and urged their husbands to join his jihad.
4) Malala isn’t the only student Fazlullah targeted. He is believed to have directed the December 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar that killed 151 people, including more than 130 children. He was appointed the TTP’s leader in 2013.
5) Pakistani media outlet The Express Tribune said that Fazlullah was born Fazal Hayat in Swat. He studied at an Islamic religious school and worked as a chairlift operator and sold firewood, before joining his father-in-law’s Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), or Movement for the Enforcement of the Sharia of Mohammad.
6) The Telegraph, citing British media reports in the aftermath of the Peshawar massacre, said Fazlullah was once an avid fan of cricket, but all of that changed after he met a radical cleric, Sufi Mohammad, and started attending his madrassa
7) Fazlullah’s family reportedly tried to woo him away from radicalism but failed. “Many of our family members went to convince him but he did not listen to anyone. He was so blinded by his passion for Islam as he saw it that he even killed two of our uncles in 2007,” one of the TTP leader’s cousins told The Telegraph in 2014.
8) Fazlullah took control of the Swat Valley from 2007-2009. Time magazine said that during his reign in the Valley, DVD shop owners and barbershops were attacked for what the Taliban said were “un-Islamic” practices, Sufi mystics and dancing girls were killed and dumped in the city square, and girls were not allowed to go to school.
9) The TTP terrorist is also said to have directed brutal and humiliating attacks on Pakistan’s military, including the beheading of 17 soldiers after an attack in June 2012, said the Tribune.
10) The US State Department in March offered a $5 million reward for Fazlullah, the same month his son Abdullah was killed, also in a US drone strike, on a TTP training facility, according to Pakistani sources.