NATO: Taliban mastermind killed in Afghanistan

From: http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/05/13/afghan.dadullah/index.html

May 13, 2007

(CNN) -- Top Taliban leader Mullah Dadullah Lang has been killed in a military operation in southern Afghanistan, NATO's International Security Assistance Forces said Sunday, confirming earlier reports by the Afghan government.

A NATO statement said Dadullah had "left his sanctuary in southern Afghanistan where he was killed in a U.S.-led coalition operation supported by NATO."

The operation was made possible "by the Afghan National Security Forces and the Afghan people," the statement said.

The elusive commander was in charge of day-to-day military operations for the Taliban and, according to ISAF, his death has struck a "serious blow" to the resurgent Taliban in the region.

According to Afghan government spokesman Khaleeq Ahmad, Dadullah was tracked down Friday by a joint Afghan army-police operation backed by NATO air support in southern Helmand Province.

Ahmad said Dadullah, who he described as the "killer of killers," was located through intelligence reports and by following leads closely.

"We had some reports that there were some major figures in the area of the operation," Ahmad told CNN Sunday. "We were going for some significant figures who were hiding in Helmand province."

Ahmad said the announcement was made Sunday because that was when the government's intelligence service confirmed the body was Dadullah.

The one-legged Dadullah figured prominently for the Taliban in media interviews.

In April, he told al-Jazeera that Osama bin Laden helped plan a deadly suicide car bombing outside Bagram Air Base targeting a "very important American official," apparently referring to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Referring to bin Laden, Dadullah told the network, "Praise be to God he is still alive, and we have information about him and praise be to God he orchestrates plans in both Iraq and Afghanistan."

On March 1, Dadullah said his forces were poised for a spring offensive against NATO-led coalition troops in Afghanistan, and that he was maintaining a regular line of communication with bin Laden. Dadullah spoke in an interview obtained by Britain's Channel Four.

Journalist Tom Coghlan told CNN on Sunday from Kabul that he had witnessed a shift in NATO battle tactics.

NATO has been moving away from killing large numbers of low-level fighters to targeting Taliban figureheads in an "aim to decapitate the leadership," Coghlan said.

And Dadullah's death is "perhaps the biggest military loss" the Taliban has had since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

In December, the U.S. military said another top Taliban military commander was killed in an airstrike close to the border with Pakistan.

Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani, described as a close associate of Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar, was killed by a U.S. airstrike while traveling by vehicle in a deserted area in the southern province of Helmand, the U.S. military said. (Full story (http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/asiapcf/12/23/afghan.osmani/index.html))

In other developments:

  • Afghan and international forces have killed 55 suspected Taliban fighters in two operations in the eastern Paktia province near the Afghan border with Pakistan, a spokesman for the provincial governor told The Associated Press on Sunday.
  • A spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry accused Pakistani forces of crossing the border into Paktia after they were involved in skirmishes with border police, AP reported. A Pakistan military spokesman claimed it had killed six Afghan soldiers. Afghan sources said two civilians had been killed.
  • One policeman was killed and two were injured when a roadside bomb exploded in Nangarthar province, AP reported.