A key Taliban commander in the western province of Herat was killed during a raid, according to a senior Afghan general.
Afghan and US forces are thought to have killed Ghulam Yahya Akbari, a senior insurgent leader with ties to the radical Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin and the Taliban. Akbari, who claims to have hundreds of fighters at his disposal, is thought to be behind the surge in attacks in Herat over the past year.
“The operation supported by NATO’s helicopter gunships launched in Gozara district at 10:00 p.m. local time Thursday and continued until 02:00 a.m. Friday as a result Taliban commander Ghulam Yahya Akbari along with his 12 armed men were killed,” General Jalandar Shah Behnam told Xinhua.
The US military confirmed the raid in Goraza but did not indicate if Akbari was killed during the attack. The US military said the operation was aimed at an “insurgent leader” who “is known to be responsible for conducting roadside bomb attacks against International Security Assistance Force and Afghan forces in the area and kidnapping Afghan civilians.”
The joint US and Afghan force repelled a large insurgent counterattack with the aid of attack helicopters. No US or Afghan troops were killed or captured during the raid.
In February 2009, the US military targeted Akbari during a “precision strike” on his compound in Goraza. Akbari was not confirmed killed during the strike.
Background on Ghulam Yahya Akbari
Akbari, who is also known as the “Tajik Taliban,” served as the mayor of the city of Herat before the Taliban took control in 1995. After the fall of the Taliban, he was appointed the province’s minister of public works. He was relieved of his position in 2008 and took up arms against the government shortly afterward.
Akbari maintains his base of operations in the Gozara district, an area which has been considered outside of the government’s control. In an interview with Al Jazeera he claimed to have run more than 20 bases in the region and boasted of having more than 600 fighters under his command.
He claimed he is not Taliban and called his group the Mujahideen of Herat. But Akbari also said he shares the same goals as the Taliban and frequently allows Arab fighters to pass from Iran through the areas under his control. He also runs the areas under his control using the same harsh version of sharia, or Islamic law, that is used by the Taliban.
Akbari was profiled by The National on the same day he was targeted in February. In 2008 his forces fired rockets at the UNAMA compound as well as at the Herat airport. Akbari was also behind the abduction of one Indian and six Afghan nationals who worked for a communications company in Herat. The Indian national died in custody in the beginning of February 2009 but the six Afghans have been released.