updated 9/20/2009 8:53:23 AM ET 2009-09-20T12:53:23

A feared Taliban commander known for beheading opponents died in custody Sunday from wounds sustained during a fierce firefight with Pakistani security forces last week, the military said.

Sher Muhammad Qasab died after being critically wounded in the gunbattle in Swat Valley, the army's media center said in a statement. Qasab's three sons were killed when he was captured.

Qasab is an Urdu-language word meaning "butcher." He was given the title because of his ruthlessness toward enemies.

The arrest of Qasab — who had a $121,000 bounty on his head — was the third from the army's list of 10 most-wanted Swat militants. Qasab allegedly decapitated many Pakistani troops in Swat when the Taliban was in control.

On the run
The Pakistan Taliban has been on the run since being cleared from the scenic valley, once a tourist hotspot, and surrounding areas in July after the military launched a major offensive to retake the region in April.

The military announced Sunday that security forces killed eight militants in search operations throughout Swat since Saturday. Twenty-three insurgents were also apprehended and another 22 surrendered, it said in a statement. One of the militants killed was a Taliban commander identified as Chamtu Khan, it said.

A Pakistani patrol also killed 10 Taliban attempting to infiltrate Swat Valley's main city of Mingora on Thursday.

The army offensive against Taliban fighters in Swat has killed more than 1,800 alleged militants, according to the military. It says 330 Pakistani troops also died in operations in the valley.

CIA drone attacks
U.S. missile attacks have played a significant role in neutralizing the insurgency. Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud was killed in an Aug. 5 CIA missile strike, plunging the group's leadership into disarray. Officials said Thursday they believed the al-Qaida operations chief for Pakistan and a top Uzbek militant died in missile attacks in the northwest earlier this month.

Despite recent successes against extremists, attacks continue. On Friday, a suicide bomber plowed his explosives-laden vehicle into a hotel in the northwestern town of Kohat, killing more than 30 and wounding dozens of others.

About 2 million civilians were forced to flee the fighting in Swat, though 1.6 million have since returned home. Aid efforts carried out by the military continue in the region.

President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will hold a meeting this Thursday in New York to step up international efforts — including aid and investment — to stabilize Pakistan and help people displaced by the conflict in Swat and surrounding areas. The "Friends of Democratic Pakistan" grouping was launched last year promising to help build dams, power stations, schools and clinics.

More on: Taliban | Pakistan

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments