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NATO says may have killed top Taliban leader

The incident happened in an area of southern Helmand province, part of the main bastion of the resurgent Taliban.

india Updated: Jan 26, 2007 15:01 IST

A senior Taliban leader might have been killed along with his deputies by a NATO air strike in Afghanistan, the alliance said.

The incident occurred on Thursday in an area of southern Helmand province, part of the main bastion of the resurgent Taliban, NATO said in a statement.

"The precision-guided munitions impacted on target, completely destroying the compound ...," the statement, issued late on Thursday, said.

"A senior Taliban leader and his deputies are believed to have been killed in this strike," it added.

NATO did not identify the men, and Taliban members could not be reached immediately for comment.

When asked if the reported leader was senior, a spokeswoman for the alliance said on Friday: "He was a very high-level Taliban leader," adding the name of man might be released later.

Helmand lies on the border with Pakistan and is also the major drug producing region of Afghanistan, the world's leading producer of opium.

Last month, an air strike by the US-led forces killed a senior Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Osmani, in the province.

Osmani was close to the Taliban's fugitive leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and also reportedly to al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

He was the first senior Taliban leader known to have been killed since US-led troops invaded Afghanistan and ousted the movement in late 2001 after it refused to hand over bin Laden, architect of the Sept 11 attacks on the United States.

Last year was the bloodiest period since the Taliban's fall in Afghanistan. About 4,000 people, including nearly 170 foreign troops, were killed.

In the face of attacks by resurgent Taliban and other Islamic militants, the U.S. government says it plans to send more troops and garner more aid to tackle the insurgents in the Asian country.