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NATO airstrike kills senior Taliban leader, Western military says

By Laura King, Los Angeles Times –

KABUL — A NATO airstrike in eastern Afghanistan has killed a senior Pakistani Taliban leader, his deputy and about 10 other insurgents, the Western military said Saturday.

Mullah Dadullah, who led fighters based in Pakistan’s Bajaur tribal area, is considered an important figure in the insurgency, which operates on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier. His presence in Afghanistan underscores the common phenomenon of Pakistan-based militants crossing the border to carry out attacks on coalition troops.

The NATO force said Dadullah had helped move fighters and weapons across the border and coordinated attacks on Western and Afghan troops.

The strike in rugged Kunar province near the border with Pakistan took place Friday afternoon, but NATO’s International Security Assistance Force didn’t publicly confirm Dadullah’s identity until Saturday.

A spokesman for the coalition, U.S. Army Maj. Martyn Crighton, would not say how Dadullah was proved to be among the dead, but noted that there are “multiple means of determining the identity of an individual to be able to confidently declare he was killed.”

The strike took place in Shigal district, about nine miles from the border. NATO has sometimes infuriated Pakistan by accidentally carrying out strikes on its side of the poorly demarcated frontier. Crighton said, however, that there was no doubt Dadullah was killed on the Afghan side.

“This strike was clearly inside the international border of Afghanistan,” he said.

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