Senior Taliban commander killed in Pakistan

( dpa )- Security forces have killed a senior Taliban commander, Mullah Ismail, also known as Ahmad Shah, in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan, officials said Saturday.

Intelligence officials told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa on condition of anonymity that Mullah Ismail was killed in a police shoot out in the Badhabher area about 10 kilomtres from the provincial capital Peshawar.

"After kidnapping an Afghan businessman from Shamshato refugees' camp, the notorious Taliban commander was trying to escape to Pakistani tribal areas when he was intercepted by police in Baghwanano dheri near Peshawar," the official said.

He said that police had killed the man at the road block as he had refused to stop and tried to escape.

Police initially said it was not aware of the high-profile killing, however it was later revealed later that one of the two persons killed in the shoot out was Mullah Ismail.

The notorious Taliban commander was from the Kunar province of Afghanistan. He was alleged to be responsible for shooting down a US Chinook helicopter killing 16 US Special Forces troops on board in June, 2005.

Sami Yousafzai, a senior Afghan journalist, said that Mullah Ismail was the most dangerous militant leader in the Kunar area.

"He was providing hospitality and all-out support to senior al- Qaeda leaders such as Obaid-Al-Misri and Marwan-Al-Suri. Although in Pakistan he was not very well known, in Afghanistan he was like a hero for Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters," he added.

It was he who carried out several of the deadliest attacks on NATO forces, including one on US Navy SEALs, Yousafzai said.

He said that al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden had sent a letter of appreciation to Mullah Ismail for his "bravery" and for causing huge casualties to US troops on Afghan soil.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, confirmed the death of Mullah Ismail, saying: "Yes one of our bravest commanders Mullah Ismail has been 'martyred' in Pakistan."

Pakistan's tribal areas are safe havens for Taliban fighters and al-Qaeda terrorists who fled to the area after the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

The country has deployed 90,000 troops in the region to prevent militants from launching cross border attacks on NATO-led international forces in Afghanistan.

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