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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 December 2006, 19:04 GMT
US raid kills 'Taleban commander'
Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani
The US said Mullah Osmani was a top commander in the south
A senior Taleban commander and associate of al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, has been killed in Afghanistan, the US military has said.

Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani's vehicle was reportedly hit in an air strike in Helmand province in south Afghanistan.

The US said Mullah Osmani was the chief Taleban military commander in southern Afghanistan - scene of heavy clashes between the Taleban and US-led forces.

A Taleban spokesman is said to have dismissed reports of his death.

But Afghanistan's interior ministry confirmed the killing, calling it "a big achievement."

An Islamist insurgency spearheaded by the resurgent Taleban militia is at its strongest in the southern Afghan provinces bordering Pakistan.

'Not present'

US military spokesman Col Tom Collins said Osmani "had been deeply involved in terrorist acts against the people of Afghanistan, Nato and the government".

"He was a top commander of Taleban operations in the south and now he's no more."

Col Collins said Osmani was one of four commanders at the top of the Taleban's hierarchy and had also been in charge of the militia's finances.

He was reportedly close to the Taleban's fugitive leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and to al-Qaeda chief, Osama Bin Laden.

Two people travelling with Osmani also died in the air strike on his vehicle on Tuesday, the US military said.

Col Collins said that although nothing was left of Osmani's body, intelligence sources have confirmed his death.

But a Taleban spokesman quoted by Reuters news agency denied the commander had been killed.

"He is not present in the area where American forces are claiming to have killed him," commander Mullah Hayat Khan told the agency by telephone.

"The American and Nato forces from time to time make such false claims. It's just propaganda against the Taleban."




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File footage of Mr Usmani on Pakistani television





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