Senior Taliban figure killed in U.S.-led mission

The Baltimore Sun

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The Taliban movement suffered a significant setback with the death of its top operational commander, Mullah Dadullah, but the brutal tactics he pioneered have likely left a lasting imprint on the insurgency, military officials and analysts said yesterday.

Dadullah, one of the most senior Taliban figures to be killed by Western forces in more than five years of fighting, died Saturday in a U.S.-led military operation in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, said American and Afghan officials.

Although subordinate to the movement's supreme leader, Mullah Omar, Dadullah was considered the commander in chief of Taliban forces, in charge of day-to-day military operations.

A flamboyant leader with one leg and a penchant for casting himself in Taliban recruiting videos, Dadullah had escaped death so many times that Afghan authorities displayed his blood-splattered corpse to reporters in the southern city of Kandahar. The body was wrapped in purple sheets and bore bullet wounds to the head and torso. Those shown the body confirmed a missing left leg. They also said his face was recognizable from his televised interviews.

Dadullah, one of the most feared and ruthless Taliban commanders, was believed to have been the driving force behind insurgents' adoption of Iraq-style tactics such as suicide bombings, abductions and assassinations.

M. Karim Faiez and Laura King write for the Los Angeles Times.

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