A Pakistani Taliban leader who spearheaded the takeover of Pakistan's Swat Valley three years ago may have been killed in a fierce ...
KABUL, Afghanistan — A Taliban offensive in eastern Afghanistan may have become the final battle for a fugitive Taliban leader from Pakistan’s Swat Valley, along Afghanistan’s northern border with Pakistan.
The commander of the Afghan border police in the region said Thursday that Maulana Fazlullah had died during the past five days of fighting near Barg-e-Matal, an isolated village in Afghanistan’s Nuristan province.
Gen. Mohammad Zaman Mamozai quoted local residents and intercepted radio transmissions as saying that Fazlullah was among a handful of Taliban fighters who had been killed.
U.S. military, Pakistani and other Afghan officials were unable to confirm the reports Thursday amid continued fighting near Barg-e-Matal, which sits in a deep valley close to the mountainous border with the Chitral district of Pakistan.
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Afghan officials said more than 500 Taliban-led insurgents, including foreign fighters, were involved in an offensive aimed at seizing control of Nuristan province.
A Taliban commander in Bajur, Asad Ullah, insisted that Fazlullah was alive.
“Maulana Fazlullah was the guest of Taliban in Nuristan, and we don’t think he can be killed so easily,” he said.
Fazlullah became known as “Radio Mullah” because of the hard-line sermons he regularly delivered over FM radio in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, about 60 miles north of Islamabad, where he led a militia aligned with the Taliban Movement of Pakistan.
His militia seized control of Swat in 2007 and imposed a harsh rule on the area, igniting clashes with Pakistani security forces.
Pakistani forces retook the region in a May 2009 offensive, but failed to capture Fazlullah.
Fazlullah gave an interview to the BBC in November in which he said he was in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani Taliban’s involvement in the attack in Nuristan would suggest its ambitions extend beyond Pakistan. The group has been linked to the deadly attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan last December, and there are unconfirmed accusations that it played a role in the attempted car bombing in New York’s Times Square this month.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.