Afghan forces have yet to confirm if Mullah Dadullah, one of the most important and brutal Taliban commanders, was one of the militants captured in the southern province of Kandahar. Dadullah, who lost a leg fighting for the Taliban during its rise to power in the mid 1990s, was responsible for operations in eastern and southeastern Afghanistan.
The capture of Dadullah, and the two other leading figures, would be a significant success for the U.S.-led coalition and for the Afghan government as they battle a spreading insurgency across the provinces of southern Afghanistan and a suicide bombing campaign that continues to take a toll in foreign and Afghan casualties.
The violence erupted Wednesday with a large attack on a town in the southern province of Helmand and two suicide blasts elsewhere. There was also heavy fighting in the neighboring province of Kandahar, in the Panjwai district sixteen miles west of the provincial capital.
More than 100 people were killed including dozens of insurgents, at least 15 Afghan police, an American civilian training Afghan forces, and the first female Canadian soldier to die in combat.
The province’s governor told a news conference three senior Taliban members had been caught in the Kandahar fighting but he declined to identify them or say if Dadullah was among them.
“We’ve arrested three high-ranking Taliban, members of their leadership council,” said the governor, Assadullah Khalid.
The Taliban have stepped up attacks on foreign and governments forces in recent months, with roadside bombs and suicide assaults. This week’s fighting marked an escalation in a region where the U.S.-led coalition is to cede control of security operations to NATO by July.