updated 1/26/2007 3:08:16 PM ET 2007-01-26T20:08:16

A NATO airstrike destroyed a Taliban command post in southern Afghanistan, killing a suspected senior militant leader, the alliance said Friday. Separately, an assailant gunned down an Afghan lawmaker who, under the former Taliban regime, oversaw the destruction of two Buddha statues carved into a cliff.

Maulavi Mohammed Islam Mohammadi, who was the Taliban’s governor of Bamiyan province when the fifth-century Buddha statues were blown up with dynamite and artillery in March 2001, was killed on his way to Friday prayers in Kabul, said Zulmai Khan, Kabul’s deputy police chief.

Mohammadi was elected in 2005 to represent the northern province of Samangan in Afghanistan’s parliament.

‘I had no power’
After he was elected, Mohammadi said he should not be held responsible for the destruction of the statues, which the Taliban considered to be idolatrous and anti-Muslim.

“It was foreigners like Chechens and Arabs with the Taliban who made the decision. They were crazy people,” Mohammadi told The Associated Press at the time. “Even though I was governor, I had no power.”

International outcry followed the destruction of the giant Buddhas, which were chiseled into a cliff and famed for their size and location along the ancient Silk Road linking Europe and Central Asia. Archaeologists in Bamiyan have been painstakingly collecting the stone remains of the two statues — and are considering rebuilding them.

In southern Helmand province, a militant leader and his deputies were killed in an airstrike Thursday, a NATO statement said. It did not disclose the name of the leader killed.

Suicide attack
Later Friday, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the offices of an aid group in the capital of Helmand province, Lashkar Gah. A policeman and two civilians were wounded, police said. Slideshow: Afghanistan today

NATO has claimed a string of successes against Taliban leaders — including the killing last month of a top lieutenant of the militia’s fugitive chief, Mullah Omar — after a year of bitter fighting that has left thousands dead.

The airstrike happened outside the town of Musa Qala, where a deal signed between local elders and the Helmand governor, with the support of the British task force based in the province, turned over security responsibilities to local leaders. The deal also prevents NATO-led troops from entering the town.

Before the deal, which has been criticized by some Western officials as putting the area outside government control, the town was a center of fierce clashes between the British troops and resurgent Taliban militants.

NATO said the airstrike did not violate the pact.

“This successful airstrike took place in the vicinity of Musa Qala but was outside of the area of the agreement between the government of Afghanistan ... and local elders,” the NATO statement said.

In eastern Afghanistan, Afghan border police clashed with suspected militants in Gomal district in Paktika province on Thursday, leaving 10 suspected Taliban and one police dead, said Ghammai Mohammadi, spokesman for the province’s governor.

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