Terrorist's Death Seen As Big Blow to Taliban

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - The weekend killing of a top Taliban terrorist in Afghanistan is being described as the most severe blow to the fundamentalist group since U.S.-led forces ousted it from power in the aftermath of 9/11.

Mullah Dadullah, sometimes referred to as the "Zarqawi of Afghanistan" because of his training and deployment of suicide bombers and a fondness for beheadings, was killed by U.S.-led coalition forces supported by NATO troops after being tracked down to a "sanctuary" in the south of the country on Saturday, NATO's International Security Assistance Force reported. It said Afghan forces had assisted in the operation.

"Just like Zarqawi, [Dadullah's] starring role in propaganda DVDs has successfully drawn in scores of suicide bombers and thousands of fighters to the cause," London's Daily Telegraph reported in a July 2006 profile article on the publicity-keen Taliban fighter. "And just like Zarqawi, his fondness for beheadings means his followers fear him almost as much as his enemies."

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the top al-Qaeda terrorist in Iraq, was killed in June 2006 when U.S. planes bombed a house near Baqubah. His death deprived Osama bin Laden's network - the Taliban's closest ally - of one of its most effective and violent leaders in Iraq.

It remains to be seen whether Dadullah's death will deal as big a blow to the Taliban, remnants of which have continued to cause havoc in Afghanistan, targeting coalition troops and the national forces of elected Afghan President Hamid Karzai. In Iraq, al-Qaeda quickly installed Abu Ayyab al-Masri as a successor to Zarqawi, and the NATO statement predicted a similar development in Afghanistan.

"Mullah Dadullah Lang will most certainly be replaced in time, but the insurgency has received a serious blow," it said.

After Mullah Mohammed Omar, who remains at large and is suspected to be hiding out in Pakistan, Dadullah was the most senior Taliban figure, and the movement's top commander in Afghanistan.

Dadullah has been reported to have been captured or killed several times in the past, but on Sunday, Afghan officials showed reporters a body said to be that of the terrorist. Wire service reports say the body bore three bullet wounds, and that the left leg was missing.

Dadullah is known to have lost a leg in the mujahideen's fight against the Soviets in the 1980s. (The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and fought a costly war against the Islamists until withdrawing in 1988-89.)

Some reports say Dadullah hailed from the Kandahar region of Afghanistan, although the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) said Sunday Dadullah was a Pakistani from Balochistan province who joined the mujahideen in neighboring Afghanistan in the 1980s.

He joined the Taliban at its formation in 1994, and eventually rose to the position of chief commander. The Taliban eventually dominated most of Afghanistan, until its al-Qaeda allies attacked America in September 2001, triggering a strong military response.

After the Taliban's fall in November 2001, Dadullah and Omar sheltered in Pakistan, and when Omar reconstituted the militia in 2003 Dadullah was appointed its head of operations, IANS reported.

The one-legged jihadist "also constituted a suicide squad of Afghan and Pakistani nationals for undertaking suicide missions against the Afghan army and the Western forces," it said.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow