Key Taliban Leader Is Killed in
Afghanistan in Joint Operation
By TAIMOOR SHAH and CARLOTTA GALL
Published: May 14, 2007
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, May 13 — The man who probably
was the Taliban’s foremost operational commander,
Mullah Dadullah, was killed in a joint operation by
Afghan security forces, American forces and NATO
troops in Helmand Province, Governor Asadullah
Khaled of the neighboring Kandahar Province said
Mullah Dadullah’s body was displayed for journalists
on Sunday morning in this southern Afghan city. The
NATO force in Afghanistan confirmed his death in a
statement issued in Kabul, saying that American
troops had led the operation. There were various
reports of the actual circumstances and day of the
Mullah Dadullah was one of the most wanted Taliban
leaders, close to the leader Mullah Muhammad Omar,
and with links to Al Qaeda, and was probably the
most important operational commander.
While the exact number of Taliban fighters or the
command structure are not known, military officials
say he organized fighters, weapons, supplies and
finances across much of southern and southeastern
Afghanistan, the centers of the Taliban insurgency.
He had been sighted in various places in the last
nine months to a year, apparently moving into and
out of southern Afghanistan from Pakistan border
His death would cause a “significant blow to the
Taliban’s command and control,” said Maj. Chris
Belcher, an American military spokesman at Bagram
Air Base, north of Kabul, the capital. He added that
Mullah Dadullah “was a military leader, primarily in
charge of the effort to recapture the city of
Kandahar,” once the Taliban’s stronghold.
The Taliban insurgency swelled in 2006 in an effort
to deter NATO troops as they arrived to take over
command of southern Afghanistan. Last year the
Taliban made a strong effort to gain control of the
city of Kandahar, or at least the surrounding area.
This year fighting has centered on Helmand Province.
In the last year Mullah Dadullah was known to be
traveling in Pakistan’s tribal areas on the Afghan
border, and in particular North and South Waziristan,
a Pakistan intelligence official said, speaking on
the condition of anonymity because of the nature of
intelligence work. Taliban militants and foreign
Qaeda allies have created a virtual Taliban
ministate in that area.
Mullah Dadullah is also thought to be responsible
for ordering numerous assassinations of clerics,
government officials and health and education
workers, as well as kidnappings and beheadings,
including of foreigners. The intelligence officials
said he was responsible for training and sending
scores of suicide bombers to Afghanistan. The bombs
have killed or wounded hundreds of Afghans and
dozens of foreigners in the last year and a half.
Military and intelligence officials said his death
would be a serious blow to the Taliban, since he had
orchestrated many of the insurgents’ operations.
Mullah Dadullah is the third member of the 10-member
leadership council of the Taliban to be killed in
the last six months.
Mullah Dadullah “will most certainly be replaced in
time, but the insurgency has received a serious
blow,” NATO said in a news release.
Governor Khaled said, “This is a huge loss for the
Taliban; it will certainly weaken their activities.”
He led journalists to see the body, on the veranda
of the governor’s palace. Mullah Dadullah, an
amputee, was recognizable in part from his missing
left leg and thick black beard. He was wounded in
the head and left eye and his face and chest were
Military officials said they were keeping
information about the circumstances of his death to
a minimum so as not to jeopardize continuing
Mullah Dadullah was tracked by a “robust”
intelligence operation and had left the sanctuary of
a neighboring country just days before and entered
Afghanistan, said Maj. John Thomas, a NATO
Major Belcher said Mullah Dadullah was killed in the
Garmser district of Helmand, on the route in from
Pakistan, south of the town of Lashkar Gah. Taliban
fighters have moved frequently across the border,
and the southern part of Helmand is a vital supply
route for Taliban militants fighting in Helmand.
One official in the region, who spoke on the
condition of anonymity because he was not authorized
to speak about the matter, said the operation in
which Mullah Dadullah was killed was a
helicopter-borne assault by American troops who were
dropped in and engaged him and his men in a
firefight. The bodies were later given to the
Afghans, he said.
The operation began Friday night, based on
intelligence, and the American forces knew Mullah
Dadullah was at the location. “It was swift and
short commando operation,” the official said. Either
Mullah Dadullah had been lured to a meeting or
someone had betrayed him, he said.
Major Belcher said he was killed by small-arms fire.
The Afghan military spokesman, Gen. Zaher Azimi,
said at a news conference that the Taliban commander
was found among 11 bodies of Taliban fighters at the
end of heavy fighting in Sarwan Qala in northeastern
Helmand, an area where fighting this week killed at
least 21 civilians. Residents reported a far higher
death toll at the time.
Mullah Dadullah was a member of the nomadic Kuchi
tribe, who move across Afghanistan with the seasons
with their camels, sheep and goats. Villagers in one
of the most remote areas of Afghanistan, Char Chine
in Oruzgan Province, said he used to pitch his tent
on a hill there. A longtime fighter and senior
commander of the Taliban, he fought on the front
lines as the Taliban seized control of much of the
country in the 1990s.
Human rights groups have said he was responsible for
killing numerous civilians during a campaign in the
mid-90s in the central Afghanistan province of
Bamian, peopled mostly by Shiite Muslims who were
resisting the Taliban advance.
In 2001, he was fighting in northern Afghanistan and
became trapped with thousands of Taliban fighters in
the city of Kunduz when the United States began its
campaign against the Taliban government. He agreed
to surrender, along with the senior Taliban military
commander in the north, Mullah Fazel, and drove out
to meet with the Northern Alliance commander, Abdul
Rashid Dostum in December 2001 in Mazar-i-Sharif.
But while Mullah Fazel arranged the surrender of
thousands of other foreign and Afghan fighters,
Mullah Dadullah escaped. He later told the BBC that
he had paid a large amount of money to a Northern
Alliance commander and escaped into the mountains,
crossing the length of Afghanistan to reach the
Taliban heartland in southern Afghanistan.
He is thought to have taken refuge in Pakistan for
the next few years, and as the Taliban re-emerged as
a fighting force in 2005 he began to give interviews
to selected journalists, including television
interviews, and released propaganda videos vowing to
send waves of suicide bombers and fighters into
Afghanistan to overthrow the government.
There had been reports over the years that he had
been captured, but they turned out to be unfounded.
The Kandahar governor said people could now live
more peacefully with Mullah Dadullah gone. “The
people have now been rescued from the cruelty of
this wild butcher,” he told the journalists.
Bin Laden Alive, Afghan Rebel Says
DUBAI, May 13 (Reuters) — An anti-American Afghan
rebel leader said in a video broadcast Sunday that
he had information that Osama bin Laden was alive
but keeping a low profile by not issuing statements.
“Based on information I have, I believe Osama is
alive,” said Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose forces
operate in southeastern Afghanistan near Pakistan,
in the undated video broadcast on Al Arabiya
television. His remarks were dubbed into Arabic.
Mr. Hekmatyar said he believed “that it is wise that
no statements or tapes are issued even after a long
Mr. Hekmatyar, a former Afghan prime minister, is on
an American wanted list and leads an insurgency
separate from the Taliban movement. He said in
January that fighters loyal to his group had helped
Mr. bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri,
escape an American effort to capture them in eastern
Afghanistan in late 2001.