U.S.-led coalition forces captured a one-legged militant fighter in a battle this week in southern Afghanistan, and it was possible he could be a top Taliban leader, an Afghan general said Friday.
The militant was captured Wednesday in a joint Afghan-coalition operation in Kandahar province, said Gen. Rehmatullah Raufi, head of the Afghan military’s southern region.
Mullah Dadullah, who lost a leg fighting for the Taliban during its rise to power in the mid-1990s, is one of the hard-line militia’s top commanders, responsible for operations in eastern and southeastern Afghanistan.
Neither the U.S.-led coalition nor the Afghan government in Kabul said they could immediately confirm that Dadullah had been captured.
“We currently do not have any information but are looking into the claim,” said U.S. military spokeswoman Lt. Tamara Lawrence. “Right now we don’t have any information that would support it.”
Raufi said coalition troops captured the militant in the Panjwayi district of Kandahar province during fighting that led to the deaths of 18 militants and a female Canadian soldier. About 35 militants were detained in that fight.
Raufi said the militant without a leg was seriously wounded and unconscious in a military hospital. He said there was a “good chance” the fighter was Dadullah but that he did not know for sure.
Both Dadullah and Taliban leader Mullah Omar are Pashtun, and Dadullah is one of the most trusted followers of Omar.
In a satellite phone interview with The Associated Press in December, Dadullah said more than 200 rebel fighters were willing to become suicide attackers against U.S. forces and their allies. Since then, there have been repeated suicide bombings, particularly in the south.
Dadullah ruled out reconciliation and talks with U.S.-backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government, saying it “owed its existence” to non-Muslims and to do so would amount to “joining Christianity and working for Christians.”
The joint Afghan-Canadian mission was part of a 24-hour storm of violence Wednesday and Thursday in which 100 people were reported killed, including about 90 militants, 18 Afghan police officers, an American civilian and the Canadian soldier.