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Top Taliban Commander, 14 Militants Killed In Afghanistan

Up to 15 Taliban militants including a top commander have been killed in a joint operation by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan troops in northern Afghanistan, reports said.

A senior official of the local police told media that the offensive took place in Dasht-e-Archi district of Kunduz province late Sunday. The senior Taliban militant killed was identified as Mawlawi Zahir, Taliban's shadow governor for Khanabad district in northern Kunduz.

Following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, which resulted in the ouster of a Taliban-backed government, the militant outfit has been running shadow administrations in all the 34 Afghan provinces. At least two shadow governors had been killed in NATO-Afghan operations last week in Kunduz province.

According to an ISAF statement, its forces had zeroed in on a senior Taliban leader in Khanabad district with links to insurgents across the border in Pakistan. It also said some ten insurgents had been killed in the operation and two had been held without saying whether the Taliban leader was among those killed.

"In addition to being the Khanabad district leader, the Taliban leader is also an improvised explosive device and weapons facilitator within the province who maintains ties with several senior Taliban leaders who are in Pakistan," it said.

Lately, there has been an escalation of violence in northern Afghanistan, which had remained relatively incident-free, following the mounting pressure brought on militants by U.S. military push in the region.

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