A key commander of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) the Pakistani branch of the Taliban, was among the casualties from two NATO air strikes in eastern Afghanistan.
Maulvi Dadullah, a senior leader of the Pakistani Taliban, was reportedly killed in the Friday evening air raids in the eastern province of Kunar, NATO and Afghan officials have said.
“There were two separate air strikes in Kunar [province] yesterday. A total of 12 insurgents were killed, six in each air strike,” a NATO spokesman told the AFP news agency.
The commander, along with his deputy, Shakir, and 10 others, believed to be fighters were killed, in the attack that wounded seven others, Major General Ewaz Mohammad Naziri, told the Pajhwok news service in Afghanistan.
Pakistani Taliban officials, as well as Pakistani intelligence officials said Dadullah had been killed in a house in eastern Kunar province.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Ahsanullah Ahsan, said Dadullah was killed in a drone strike in Kunar. He said Maulana Abu Bakar has been named as the new chief of the Bajur region.
Sayed Rahman, police chief of Kunar’s Shigal district, where the attacks took place, said most of the dead were from neighbouring Pakistan.
Al Jazeera’s Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul, said fighters on either side often take advantage of the porous border between the neighbouring nations.
Referring to Pakistani groups like the TTP, our correspondent said “when the Pakistani military put pressure on them, they cross over into Afghanistan, and vice versa”.
Rahman also confirmed Dadullah’s death, saying “Commander Dadullah, the top Taliban commander in Bajaur agency of
Pakistan, is also among the dead”.
Although rumours of his death have circulated before, Glasse said “the fact that local officials are saying its true, generally adds more credence” to the claims of Dadullah’s death in an area that is often hard to gain access to.
A NATO statement describes Dadullah, also known as Jamal, as being responsible for “the movement of fighters and weapons, as well as attacks against Afghan and coalition forces”.
Dadullah, in his forties, replaced Maulvi Faqir Mohammad last year after Mohammad told the media that the Taliban were holding peace talks with the government.
The group then replaced Mohammad with Dadullah to undercut the secret negotiations, Taliban commanders say.
Our correspondent said, Dadullah’s death would be a blow to the TTP “an organisation that has dogged Pakistan for a long time” now.
Last week, two dozen people, believed to be Taliban fighters, were killed in NATO air strikes in Chapa Dara district of Kunar as they gathered for a public execution.