NATO Airstrike Kills Suspected Senior Taliban Leader

A NATO airstrike destroyed a Taliban command post in southern Afghanistan, killing a suspected senior militant leader, the alliance said Friday, while 10 rebel fighters died in a clash with police in the east.

An undisclosed number of the militant leader's deputies also were killed in Thursday's airstrike in Musa Qala district of southern Helmand province, a NATO statement said. It did not disclose the name of the leader killed.

The military alliance has claimed a string of successes against Taliban leaders — including the killing last month of a top lieutenant of the militia's fugitive chief, Mullah Omar — after a year of bitter fighting that has left thousands dead.

The airstrike happened outside the town of Musa Qala, where a deal signed between local elders and the Helmand governor, with the support of the British task force based in the province, turned over security responsibilities to local leaders. The deal also prevents NATO-led troops from entering the town.

Before the deal, which has been criticized by some Western officials as putting the area outside government control, the town was a center of fierce clashes between the British troops and resurgent Taliban militants.

NATO said the airstrike did not violate the pact.

"This successful air strike took place in the vicinity of Musa Qala but was outside of the area of the agreement between the government of Afghanistan ... and local elders," the NATO statement said.

In eastern Afghanistan, Afghan border police clashed with suspected militants in Gomal district in Paktika province on Thursday, leaving 10 suspected Taliban and one police dead, said Ghammai Mohammadi, spokesman for the province's governor.

Five policemen and 15 militants also were wounded in the clash, which happened close to the Pakistan border.

Ghammai said that the militants took the dead and wounded across the border into Pakistan. His claims could not be verified.

In southern Kandahar province, two gunmen on a motorbike fatally shot the chief of criminal department of police of Panjwayi district on Thursday, said Mohammad Akbar Khan, a police official.