Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Afghan forces capture dangerous Taliban commander in Nimroz


Mullah Sher Malang was captured in a raid in the Khashrod district in Nimroz after a major clash with Taliban forces in the region. The initial clash took place after Taliban forces under the command of Mullah Ewaz ambushed an Afghan and Coalition convoy in the district.

Ewaz and an estimated 20 of his fighters were reported killed during the battle, which took place on Dec. 18, Nimroz's governor and police chief told Pajhwok Afghan News.

Afghan forces captured Malang during a follow-up raid that resulted in one Taliban fighter killed and five more wounded.

Malang is known to organize suicide attacks and roadside bombings in the region, and is a close ally to Mullah Abdullah Zakir, the Taliban's chief of military operations in southern Afghanistan.

Zakir, whose real name is Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, is known to operate a forward command center in the Chaman district in Pakistan's Baluchistan province, US military intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal. Zakir is a former detainee at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba.

Zakir operates from Chaman as it shields him from US and NATO operations, the officials said. According to Pajhwok Afghan News, Zakir has also been operating from Farah province, which is under the command of a dangerous Taliban commander known as Mullah Hayatullah. Farah borders Helmand province, where Coalition and Afghan forces have gone on the offensive to uproot the Taliban.

"He's [Zakir is] untouchable in Pakistan," one official said, noting the covert US air campaign is limited to Pakistan's northwest. "Right now we're not striking in Baluchistan, and Pakistan won't move against them [the Taliban] there."

The Taliban have based their Shura Majlis, or executive council, in nearby Quetta, according to US, British, and Afghan officials. But recent reports indicate that Mullah Omar and much of the Quetta Shura have relocated to Pakistan's port city of Karachi, with the aid of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency. The report broke as the US threatened to expand the covert air war against Omar's forces from the tribal areas into Quetta and greater Baluchistan.

In the past, the Pakistani government denied that the Afghan Taliban is based in Quetta. However, on Dec. 10, Pakistan's defense minister admitted that Mullah Omar's Quetta Shura is indeed in Pakistan, but said it is no longer a threat. Defense Minister Ahmad Mukhtar claimed Pakistan's intelligence services have neutralized the Quetta Shura.

There is no evidence, however, that any senior member of Mullah Omar's cadre has been killed or captured.

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