Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani killed in airstrike

Sunday, December 24, 2006

An undated photo of Osmani; distributed by the Department of Defense

Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani, who was an associate of Taliban head Mullah Omar, was killed on Tuesday following a U.S. air strike in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. He is the highest ranking Taliban official to have been killed or captured since the invasion in 2001.

Colonel Tom Collins claims that this is a "big loss" for the Taliban, although they will be able to find a replacement. U.S. and Afghani officials claim this is a big victory; it may even disrupt the planning of an attack by the Taliban.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi, however, claims that Osmani is "alive and is in Afghanistan." Collins rebutes this claim by stating that breaking the news of his death was intentionally delayed to confirm it was indeed Osmani. According to the U.S., "various sources" were used to confirm Osmani's identity.

Osmani played the role of handling military operations in Helmand, as well as Kandahar. The Associated Press also claims he has been involved in the destruction of Buddha statues and the "trial" of Christian aid workers.

EuroNews reports that this is the bloodiest year of fighting in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.