Killing Taliban leader a major victory
Slain commander is expected to be replaced quickly
By Jason Strazioso
Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan — The killing of the top Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah, a one-legged fighter who orchestrated suicide attacks, beheadings and an ethnic massacre, marks a major victory for the U.S. campaign at a time of flagging Afghan support over civilian killings.
As victims of Dadullah’s brutality celebrated his death Sunday, analysts called the killing the most significant Taliban loss since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. But even NATO acknowledged that Dadullah, who directed some of the Taliban’s most notorious violence, would soon be replaced.
Dadullah, a top lieutenant of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, was killed in the southern province of Helmand during a U.S.-led operation that also involved NATO and Afghan troops, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said.
Kandahar Gov. Asadullah Khalid, who called Dadullah a “brutal and cruel commander” showed the body to reporters in Kandahar who saw a one-legged corpse with bullet wounds to the head, chest and stomach.
Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a purported Taliban spokesman, denied that the Taliban commander had been killed, but there appeared little doubt Dadullah was dead.
Dadullah is the second top-tier Taliban field commander to be killed in the last six months, after a U.S. airstrike killed Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani in December. Dadullah, Osmani and policy-maker Mullah Obaidullah had been considered to be Omar’s top three leaders.
Rahimullah Yusufzai, a Peshawar-based editor for the Pakistani newspaper The News and an expert on the Taliban, said Dadullah’s death was “the biggest loss for the Taliban in the last six years.” But he noted that even though the Taliban were demoralized after Osmani’s death in December, they quickly resumed attacks.
“I don’t think they can find someone as daring and as important as Dadullah,” Yusufzai said. “I think maybe temporarily some of their big operations will be disrupted, but I don’t think it will have a long-term effect.”
Attacks to continue
Mustafa Alani, director of security and terrorism studies at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center, noted that insurgent attacks in Iraq did not abate after the killing of al-Qaida’s leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, last June.
“In this sort of organization, people are replaceable, and always there is a second layer, third layer. They will graduate to the leadership,” Alani said. “He is important, no doubt about it. Yes, it is a moral victory, but he’s replaceable.”
Still, Dadullah’s particular brand of cruelty was unmatched inside the Taliban.
Dadullah’s men videotaped beheadings of Afghans suspected of cooperating with international forces.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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