Afghan spy agency says it has killed Taliban mastermind of deadly attack
National Directorate of Security says dead commander killed 37 and wounded 58 in agency base
Afghanistan's main spy agency said on Wednesday it had killed the Taliban commander behind a deadly attack on an agency base this week, and vowed to hunt down and kill all of those involved.
The National Directorate of Security (NDS) said the Taliban commander, identified only as Noman, was killed in an air strike on Tuesday night.
The agency said Noman was the mastermind of a Monday attack on an NDS base in Maidan Wardak province, west of Kabul, in which the NDS said 36 people were killed and 58 wounded. Other officials said the casualty toll was higher.
"Noman, along with seven others, was targeted after being identified by the NDS forces in an operative task," the security agency said in a statement.
"NDS will follow the terrorist group and kill them all."
The Taliban, in a statement, denied that the commander had been killed.
The insurgent attack in Maidan Wardak was the latest to inflict heavy casualties on government forces and underlined the heavy pressure they are facing as increasingly confident Taliban fighters step up violence, even as diplomatic efforts to end the conflict are underway.
It was not immediately clear if the air strike that killed the militants was supported by US forces.
The violence this week came as leaders of the hardline Islamist group met US officials for talks to try to agree on a way to end the 17-year war.
Officials from the two sides have met at least four times in recent months but the militants have refused to talk to the US-backed Kabul government.
The Taliban say they are fighting to topple the Western-backed government and restore strict Islamic law after their ouster in 2001.
The United States and its allies say they want to stop Afghanistan from becoming a haven for international militants plotting attacks in the West.
Taliban officials who were privy to the peace talks said US officials taking part were concerned about deteriorating security and feared that a US troop withdrawal could lead to "terrorist groups" taking control in Afghanistan.
“Our delegation made it clear that they would never let Afghanistan to be used against any other country in future,” said a senior Taliban official on condition of anonymity.
In Monday's attack, the Taliban detonated a captured military Humvee packed with explosives.
Some government officials said the casualty toll was higher than the one given by the NDS.
A senior defence source had told Reuters 126 members of the Afghan security forces were killed. Two senior security officials in the capital, Kabul, said at least 72 men being trained by the NDS were killed with 38 severely wounded.
The Taliban said their attack killed 190 people.
Afghan forces backed by US air strikes have been targeting Taliban commanders, but questions have been raised over the future of US involvement by reports that President Donald Trump wants to bring home almost half of the 14,000 American troops.
Updated: January 23, 2019 04:18 PM