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Last Updated: Monday, 3 December 2007, 12:45 GMT
'Taleban kidnapper' dies in raid
Daniele Mastrogiacomo
Mr Mastrogiacomo was freed in an exchange with Taleban prisoners
US-led forces in Afghanistan say they have killed a Taleban commander who kidnapped an Italian journalist and his two Afghan colleagues in March.

Mullah Sainy was among five Taleban fighters said to have been killed in an air raid in southern Helmand province.

Journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo was freed in exchange for Taleban captives. His Afghan colleagues were killed.

The air raid came as Afghan-led troops began an operation to try to retake the town of Musa Qala held by the Taleban.

Stronghold

US-led coalition forces said the air raids near Musa Qala killed Taleban fighters in two locations, including a strike on a vehicle carrying Mullah Sainy.

Ajmal Naqshbandi
Ajmal Naqshbandi - one of the Afghans killed after the Italian's release

The BBC's David Loyn in Kabul says Mullah Sainy is believed to have been involved in the kidnapping of Daniele Mastrogiacomo, whose local fixer and driver were killed after he was released from Taleban captivity in March.

The Taleban admit they lost some men in the overnight raid, but say there were civilians killed in the operation as well.

The Afghan Ministry of Defence now says an operation codenamed Zafar has begun to try to retake the town of Musa Qala.

This operation is being led by Afghan forces with mainly British forces in support.

The town was handed over to local elders in a deal negotiated by British forces a year ago, but has been a Taleban stronghold since February.

Recently a Taleban commander in Musa Qala told visiting journalists that they were ready for an assault, claiming they had more than 2,000 Taleban fighters in the town, our correspondent says.



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