updated 6/4/2007 3:52:00 PM ET 2007-06-04T19:52:00

President Hamid Karzai ordered that the body of a slain top Taliban commander be exchanged for the release of five Afghan health workers kidnapped in the country’s south, an official said Monday.

Karzai told “relevant authorities” to exchange the body of Mullah Dadullah, killed last month in southern Afghanistan, for a doctor, three nurses and a driver kidnapped March 27, said Abdullah Fahim, a spokesman for the Public Health Ministry.

The order followed an exchange demand from Dadullah Mansoor, the brother of the slain commander, who now heads the militant operations in southern Afghanistan, Fahim said.

Mullah Dadullah, a one-legged militant who orchestrated Taliban suicide attacks and beheadings, was killed in a U.S.-led military operation in Helmand province. Kandahar Gov. Asadullah Khalid has said that Dadullah was buried at a secret location near Kandahar.

The health workers were kidnapped by suspected Taliban militants in Kandahar’s Zhari district after they had administered vaccines and other treatment at a refugee camp, officials said.

“We hope that they will release our workers safe and secure,” Fahim said. “Now it is up to local authorities in Kandahar ... to hand over the body (to the family),” he said.

It was not immediately clear when the swap would be made.

Mullah Dadullah was the second top-tier Taliban field commander to die in six months, after a U.S. airstrike killed Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani in December.

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