Senior Taliban leader killed

Published May 14, 2007

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The Taliban's most prominent military commander, a one-legged fighter who orchestrated an ethnic massacre and a rash of beheadings, was killed in a U.S.-led military operation in southern Afghanistan, officials said Sunday.

Mullah Dadullah, a top lieutenant of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, was killed Saturday in the southern province of Helmand, said Said Ansari, the spokesman for Afghanistan's intelligence service. NATO confirmed his death, calling it "a serious blow" to the insurgency.

Dadullah is one of the highest-ranking Taliban leaders killed since the fall of the hard-line regime following the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. His death represents a major victory for the Afghan government and the international coalition that has struggled to contain a Taliban-led insurgency in the south and east of the country.

NATO said Dadullah moved into Afghanistan from his "sanctuary" - a reference to Pakistan - where he trained suicide bombers. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf admitted in February that Dadullah had been in Pakistan several times and eluded capture.

Dadullah "will most certainly be replaced in time, but the insurgency has received a serious blow, " NATO said.

Rahimullah Yusufzai, a Peshawar-based editor for the Pakistani newspaper The News and an expert on the Taliban, and Mustafa Alani, director of security and terrorism studies at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center, said the death, while a major blow to the Taliban, would have little long-term effect.