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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 May 2007, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
Taleban's most feared commander
By Rahimullah Yusufzai
BBC News, Peshawar, Pakistan

Mullah Dadullah
Mullah Dadullah lost one of his legs as a mujahideen fighter

The death of Mullah Dadullah removes the most dangerous Taleban military commander.

He becomes the highest-ranking military chief to be removed since the fall of Taleban regime in December 2001.

His importance could be gauged from the fact that he was named overall commander for Taleban military operations, a position that gave him authority to plan attacks and assign responsibility to his fighters.

Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar also appointed him to the 10-member "rahbari shura" [leadership council] comprising top military commanders.

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One commander on this council has already been killed and the rest remained among the most wanted Taleban figures.

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Mullah Dadullah, who lost one of his legs as a mujahideen fighter against the Soviet occupation troops in the 1980s and has since used an artificial limb, had the reputation of a fearless man.

Despite his disability, he fought and led major battles for the Taleban against the rival Northern Alliance forces during the 1990s.

Mullah Omar, leader of ousted Taleban
Mullah Dadullah was thought to be close to Mullah Omar [centre]

He was trapped in northern Kunduz province along with hundreds of other Taleban commanders and fighters in November and December 2001.

But unlike others he refused to surrender to pro-US Uzbek warlord Gen Abdul Rashid Dostum and instead made a daring escape to reach Kandahar.

It made him a hero in the eyes of the Taleban rank and file.

Mullah Dadullah, who is around 40 years old, was one of the first Taleban commanders to organise attacks against US-led coalition forces.

And he was the first Taleban commander to give interviews to print and electronic media after the fall of the regime.

Unlike other Taleban leaders who never allowed themselves to be photographed for religious and security reasons, Mullah Dadullah did just the opposite.

He granted an interview to the Arabic television channel al-Jazeera.

Occasionally he called journalists, including those from the BBC in Afghanistan and Pakistan, on his satellite phone to provide information about Taleban attacks and issue new threats against foreign and Afghan forces.

Faction leader General Abdul Rashid Dostum
The mullah's escape from Gen Dostum raised his standing

Besides organising guerrilla attacks, Mullah Dadullah was also believed to be involved in sending suicide bombers to target US-led coalition forces.

In some of his interviews, he claimed hundreds of men were signing up to go on suicide missions in different parts of Afghanistan.

He also claimed that the Taleban had infiltrated Kabul and other cities to carry out suicide attacks.

Mullah Dadullah's death is a huge setback for the Taleban.

It will not be easy for the leadership to find a replacement.

According to Taleban sources, Mullah Dadullah led from the front without caring for his personal safety.

His death may make it harder for Taleban fighters to keep up morale at a time when the odds are heavily stacked against them.




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