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Top Taliban commander killed in Afghanistan

Akhtar Mohammed Osmani and two of unidentified associates were killed when their vehicle was hit by an airstrike.

india Updated: Dec 23, 2006 23:04 IST

A leading commander of the radical Islamic Taliban, described as close associate of Osama bin Laden, was killed this week in a targeted attack by US-led coalition forces in southern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border, the US military said onSaturday.

Akhtar Mohammed Osmani and two of unidentified associates were killed on Tuesday when their vehicle was hit by an airstrike in a deserted area in the volatile southern province of Helmand, US military said in a statement.

"Credible intelligence led Coalition Forces to Osmani's location near the border with Pakistan," the statement said.

Osmani was the Taliban's chief of military operations in southern and eastern regions, the statement said, adding that he had played a central role in facilitating terrorist operations including suicide attacks, kidnappings, and direct attacks on coalition, NATO, and Afghan forces.

"Osmani was in the top ring of the Taliban leadership and he was also a close associate of (Al Qaeda terrorist network leader) Osama bin Laden and (the prime minister of the former Taliban government in Afghanistan) Gulbuddin Hekmatyar," Colonel Tom Collins was quoted in the statement as saying.

"(Osmani's) death is a major achievement in the fight against extremists and their terrorist networks," Collins said.

However, a purported Taliban spokesman in a statement to the media denied the claims, saying the airstrike killed Mullah Abdul Zahir, a group commander and three other Taliban fighters.

Afghanistan has witnessed the bloodiest violencein 2006since the fall of Taliban in 2001.

First Published: Dec 23, 2006 23:04 IST