Endoperoxides kill malaria parasites via cleavage of their endoperoxide bridge by haem or iron, leading to generation of cytotoxic oxygen-centred radicals. In view of the Leishmania parasites having a relatively compromised anti-oxidant defense and high iron content, this study aims to establish the underlying mechanism(s) accounting for the apoptotic-like death of Leishmania promastigotes by artemisinin, an endoperoxide. The formation of reactive oxygen species was confirmed by flow cytometry and was accompanied by inhibition of mitochondrial complexes I-III and II-III. However, this did not translate into a generation of mitochondrial superoxide or decrease in oxygen consumption, indicating minimal impairment of the electron transport chain. Artemisinin caused depolarization of the mitochondrial membrane along with a substantial depletion of adenosine triphosphatase (ATP), but it was not accompanied by enhancement of ATP hydrolysis. Collectively, the endoperoxide-mediated radical formation by artemisinin in Leishmania promastigotes was the key step for triggering its antileishmanial activity, leading secondarily to mitochondrial dysfunction indicating that endoperoxides represent a promising therapeutic strategy against Leishmania worthy of pharmacological consideration.