Source AP ©

Taliban leader involved in kidnapping South Korean hostage crisis killed

U.S. military airstrikes killed of Taliban commander who orchestrated the kidnappings of 23 South Koreans, Afghan officials said Tuesday.

Mullah Abdullah Jan, the Taliban commander of Qara Bagh district in Ghazni province, was among the 12 killed in the strike on a mud-brick housing compound overnight, said Ghazni provincial police chief Gen. Ali Shah Ahmadzai.

Jan watched as his fighters stopped and kidnapped a tour bus full of South Koreans in July, Ahmadzai said. Officials previously said they had killed another commander behind the kidnappings, a Mullah Mateen, but Ahmadzai said Jan was higher-ranking.

Neither the U.S. military or NATO's International Security Assistance Force had any immediate comment.

There have been several military operations in Ghazni since the release of the last of the captives on Aug. 30, possibly reflecting the desires of the Afghan government or U.S. and NATO forces to assert authority over the rebellious region following the abductions.

Afghanistan's Interior Ministry on Sunday said police had killed three Taliban commanders allegedly involved in the abductions, and Mateen was said to be killed in fighting earlier in the month.

Two of the Korean hostages were slain soon after the kidnappings on July 19. Two women were released later during the Taliban's negotiations with South Korea, and the remaining 19 were freed after days of negotiations between two Taliban leaders and a delegation from South Korean.

Elsewhere, an explosion on Monday killed a NATO soldier and wounded another in southern Afghanistan, the alliance said Tuesday. The statement from NATO's International Security Assistance Force did not provide further details about the incident or the nationality of the victims.

In Helmand province, a gunbattle in Garmser district Monday killed six suspected Taliban, while nine others were killed in an airstrike in Kajaki district, the Ministry of Defense said.

Insurgency-related violence has killed more than 4,300 people - mostly militants - in Afghanistan this year, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Western and Afghan officials.

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