Afghan Taliban linked to US chopper crash

THE NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan said today it had killed a Taliban commander who was the target of an operation in which 30 US troops died when their helicopter crashed last month.

Qari Tahir was killed by an air strike on Tuesday (local time) in Wardak province, central Afghanistan, the military said.

The US said last month it had killed those behind the helicopter’s downing but a senior Afghan Government official told AFP that it was Tahir who had lured US forces to the scene by tipping them off about a Taliban meeting.

“A precision air strike killed Taliban leader Qari Tahir after the security force located Tahir and an associate in a dry riverbed in Sayd Abad district,” the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said in a statement.

“Tahir was the Taliban’s top leader in Tangi Valley and was the target of a previous combined operation on August 5, 2011, that resulted in the loss of the CH-47 Chinook last month.

“He led a group of insurgent fighters throughout the valley and was known to use roadside bombs and rockets to intimidate the local populace.”

The US helicopter crash killed 38 people including 30 US troops, 25 of whom were special forces.

It was the biggest single loss of life for international forces since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan toppled the Taliban 10 years ago.

The Afghan official, speaking anonymously to AFP, said the helicopter was shot down and Tahir had set a trap to lure it to the scene.

Days after the crash, General John Allen, the US commander of foreign troops in Afghanistan, said those who shot the helicopter down had been hunted down and killed in a bombing raid by an F-16 fighter jet.

“This does not ease our loss but we must and we will continue to relentlessly pursue the enemy,” Allen said at the time.

He said that the fatal operation had been targeting the leadership of an “enemy network” within the remote and hostile Tangi Valley in Wardak, southwest of the capital Kabul.

There are around 140,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, about 100,000 of them from the United States, fighting a Taliban-led insurgency.

All foreign combat forces are due to leave in staged withdrawals leading up to a deadline at the end of 2014, at which point Afghan security forces will assume responsibility for their country.

A string of recent spectacular attacks in the Afghan capital Kabul has highlighted the strength of the insurgency.

These include Tuesday’s assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the former president tasked with leading Afghan government efforts to talk peace with the Taliban, by a turban bomber in his home.

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