Wanted Taliban leader killed in raid

A wanted Taliban insurgent leader in Afghanistan, Mullah Brother, was killed on Thursday in a United States-led raid in the southern province of Helmand, the Afghan Defence Ministry said, citing ground commanders.

Brother served as a top military commander for the Taliban government until its removal from power in 2001 and was a member of the movement’s leadership council led by its fugitive leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Mullah is a title for a Muslim cleric that many senior Taliban use. It was not clear if the name Brother, which other Taliban leaders have used to refer to him, was a nom de guerre.

Taliban members were not immediately available for comment and there was no independent verification of the ministry report.

The raid was launched after Taliban insurgents ambushed an Afghan army convoy between Sangin and Sarwan districts of Helmand, the ministry said in a statement.

Air support from US-led troops was called in, said ministry spokesperson Zahir Azimi.

“He was killed, probably in ground fighting,” he said.

“Brother was on the black list,” Azimi said referring to a wanted US list involving Taliban leaders and al-Qaeda members.

Brother was a top military aide to Taliban leader Omar.

An Afghan man convicted of killing four journalists in 2001, including two from Reuters, told his trial in 2004 that Brother had given the order that the four be killed.

Gunmen captured the journalists on the main road from Pakistan in the east of the country while they were trying to reach Kabul days after the defeated Taliban had withdrawn from the city. They were shot dead.

If confirmed, Brother’s killing would represent another blow to the Taliban insurgency, which has had several of its top leaders either killed or arrested in the past nine months.

Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban’s top operational commander in southern Afghanistan, was killed in May.

In December, US-led forces killed another top Taliban official, Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Osmani, in an air attack in the south of the country after a tip-off by Pakistan.

But several previous Afghan government reports of the arrest or killing of top Taliban commanders have turned out to be erroneous.

In a separate incident, a British soldier and a civilian interpreter were killed in a blast on Thursday while on patrol in the southern province of Kandahar, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.—Reuters

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