Afghan officials, ISAF confirm the Taliban’s most senior military leader was killed during fighting in the south
NATO and Afghan forces have struck a major blow to the Taliban’s military leadership. Mullah Dadullah Akhund, the Taliban’s top military commander, has been killed during fighting in the volatile southern province of Helmand. “He was killed last night and right now I have his body before me,” Governor Assadullah Khalid of Kandahar province told Reuters. Governor Khalid displayed the body to a group of reporters in neighboring Kandahar province.
An AP reporter recognized Dadullah’s corpse from television interviews and said the body “had no left leg and three bullet wounds: one to the back of the head and two to the stomach.” NATO’s International Security Assistance Force has confirmed his death. “Mullah Dadullah will most certainly be replaced in time, but the insurgency has received a serious blow,” according to an ISAF statement. Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, has denied Dadullah was killed.
Some reports indicate Dadullah was killed in the Gershk district, others claim he was killed near the Sangin and Nari Saraj districts. NATO and Afghan forces have been conducting major operations against the Taliban in these regions. Just yesterday, NATO said it killed over 70 Taliban and wounded another 30 during a week long battle to clear the Nari Saraj district. Another 20 Taliban were reported killed in the Sangin district yesterday.
Dadullah was thought to have been surrounded in the Chora district in neighboring Uruzgan province along with 200 of his fighters on April 26, but the Taliban said Mullah Dadullah was not among them. Dadullah then appeared on an interview on Al Jazeera, and claimed Osama bin Laden was alive, well, and leading the jihad in Afghanistan. “His recent al Jazeera interview and phone calls may have played a huge role in his death,” Matt Dupee of Afgha.com said in an email.
Mullah Dadullah on Al Jazeera.
Mullah Dadullah sat on the Taliban Shura Majlis–or executive council. He was the Taliban’s most senior military commander and reported to have been one of Mullah Omar’s most trusted advisers. Dadullah joined forces with the Taliban at its formation in 1994, but fell out of favor “after he was accused for a bloody genocide in the central Bamyan province.”
“Largely known for his brutality on the battlefield, he is labeled a blood-thirsty sadist who enjoys killing and torturing by military analysts,” said Dupee. “Hazara residents in the central highlands who endured mass killings and a scorched earth campaign by Dadullah and his men in the late 1990’s agree; referring to him as the ‘Black Mullah,’ a term signifying his dark heart.” Dadullah was later reactivated to fight the Northern Alliance.
Dadullah escaped capture after the fall of the Taliban in late 2001 during the U.S. led Operation Enduring Freedom. He fled to South Waziristan, Pakistan, where he reconstituted his forces and continued to fight NATO and Afghan forces. Dadullah has orchestrated and promoted the Taliban’s suicide campaign in Afghanistan and led the Taliban’s conventional military operations in the critical southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan, and Zabul. Recently, Mullah Dadullah was said to have personally mediated between feuding Taliban and Uzbek forces in South Waziristan.
Dadullah’s death may have a significant impact on the Taliban’s much heralded “Spring Offensive,” which NATO has countered by launching preemptive strikes since late winter against Taliban positions in Helmand and Uruzgan provinces.
Video of Dadullah’s last interview with Al Jazeera on April 30, 2007
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.