Mullah Dadullah, who led fighters based in Pakistan’s Bajaur tribal area, is considered an important figure in the insurgency, which operates on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan frontier. His presence inside Afghanistan underscores the common phenomenon of Pakistan-based militants crossing the border to carry out attacks on coalition troops inside Afghanistan.
The NATO force said Dadullah had facilitated the cross-border movement of fighters and weapons, and coordinated attacks on Western and Afghan troops.
The strike in rugged Kunar province, in eastern Afghanistan, took place Friday afternoon, but NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, did not publicly confirm Dadullah’s identity until Saturday.
A spokesman for the coalition, U.S. Army Maj. Martyn Crighton, would not say how it was conclusively proved that Dadullah was among the dead, but noted there are “multiple means of determining the identity of an individual to be able to confidently declare he was killed.”
The strike took place in Shigal district, about nine miles from the border. In the past, NATO has sometimes infuriated Pakistan by accidentally carrying out strikes on its side of the poorly demarcated frontier. Crighton said, however, there was no doubt that Dadullah was killed on the Afghan side.
“This strike was clearly inside the international border of Afghanistan,” he said.
Photo: Mullah Dadullah, center, regional commander of the Pakistani Taliban group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Movement of Pakistani Taliban) talks to journalists at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in September 2011. Credit: Meer Afzal / EPA