January 11, 2009 / 11:47 AM / 11 years ago

Taliban commander killed in offensive: Australia

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian special forces have killed a Taliban commander involved in recruiting suicide bombers and foreign fighters in Afghanistan, Australia’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday.

The Taliban launched scores of suicide bombings across Afghanistan last year, mostly aimed at the 65,000 foreign troops in the country as well as Afghan forces. Most of the victims of the attacks are civilian passers-by, security experts say.

Mullah Abdul Rasheed was a “primary” facilitator of attacks using improvised bombs against foreign forces in the southern province of Uruzgan, the ministry said in a statement.

“The death of Mullah Abdul Rasheed is a significant achievement for the Special Operations Task Group,” said Lieutenant General Mark Evans, Australia’s chief of joint operations.

As a result, “we have significantly disrupted insurgent operations in Uruzgan province,” Evans said.

Rasheed was a senior commander in the Baluchi valley, in Uruzgan province and was thought to be responsible for Taliban operations in the area and bringing in “potential suicide bombers,” foreign fighters and bomb experts, the statement said.

Rasheed was killed in Uruzgan in an operation involving Australia’s Special Operations Task Group.

Although the ministry statement did not say when Rasheed died, it indicated he was killed some time in the last week.

The Australian military is investigating reports its troops killed or wounded nine Afghan civilians in the same valley in the last week, the Australian Defense Force said on Thursday.

Australia has around 1,100 troops in Afghanistan serving under NATO command, mostly in the southern province of Uruzgan where Taliban insurgents have a strong presence.

Some 5,000 people, a third of them civilians, were killed in Afghanistan last year, analysts say, in the worst year of violence since U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban for sheltering al Qaeda leaders behind the September 11, 2001 attacks.

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