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Taleban's ex-spokesman shot dead

Mullah Omar
Mohammad Hanif spoke regularly for leaders like Mullah Omar

A former high-profile spokesman for the Taleban has been shot dead in eastern Afghanistan, officials have said.

Mohammad Hanif was killed at his home in the province of Nangarhar along with three other people who were believed to be his relatives.

Some reports said the assailants were wearing Afghan army uniforms.

Dr Hanif, as he was known, was arrested in January 2007, but freed from custody this year. It was thought he no longer had any contact with the Taleban.

Convoy attack

District official Sayed Mohammad told Associated Press news agency the attackers had used ladders to climb into Dr Hanif's home in Chaparhar.

Another official said the others killed were Dr Hanif's cousin, brother-in-law and nephew and that the attack may have been linked to a family feud.

Dr Hanif began speaking for Afghanistan's former rulers in October 2005.

He was held in January 2007 in the border town of Towr Kham in Nangarhar soon after entering from Pakistan.

Dr Hanif had been highly active, regularly e-mailing news organisations with the Taleban's version of events in the east of the country.

He was appointed after the capture in Quetta, Pakistan, of former Taleban spokesman Latifullah Hakimi in October 2005.

Afghanistan's intelligence agents released a video in which Dr Hanif alleged Taleban leader Mullah Omar was living inside Pakistan - a claim denied by Islamabad.

Separately more than 200 Taleban militants attacked an Afghan army convoy in the north-western province of Badghis late on Thursday, killing at least 13 Afghan soldiers and policemen.

The convoy was transporting dozens of vehicles bringing winter supplies to Bala Murghab district.

Abdul Ghani Sabri, the deputy provincial governor, said 11 security officials were also wounded and seven Taleban fighters killed in a three-hour long battle.

Analysts said the ambush was one of the Taleban's most audacious.

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