Afghanistan says Taliban shadow governor in Helmand killed

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A senior Taliban leader identified by Afghan authorities as a shadow governor of the southern province of Helmand has been killed by security forces, officials said on Tuesday, although the Taliban immediately denied the report.

The report came days after Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed by a U.S. airstrike in south western Pakistan.

Omar Zwak, a spokesman for the provincial governor of Helmand, said Mullah Muzamel had died of injuries sustained during an air strike in Marjah district late on Sunday.

“First he was wounded and later that night he died of his wounds,” Zwak said.

Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said in a tweet that Muzamel had been killed in a special forces operation along with two of his commanders.

However Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman for southern Afghanistan, denied the report.

The shadow governor for Helmand’s name is Haji Mullah Abdul Manan Akhund and he is safe, he said.

“No official has been killed or wounded in Helmand,” he said.

Helmand, the region that supplies the largest share of Afghanistan’s opium crop, has seen months of bitter fighting and much of the province is under Taliban control but government forces have launched an offensive to retake lost ground.

Reporting by Abdul Malik; writing by James Mackenzie; editing by Gareth Jones