Taliban official admits U.S. strike killed military chief: report

A Taliban official has reportedly confirmed a Dec. 19 air strike killed a top commander close to Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.

A Taliban official has confirmed a top military commander with close ties to Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar was killed in an air strike on Dec. 19, according to a report out of Pakistan.

Akhtar Mohammad Osmani died when a U.S. plane fired at his vehicle in the southern province of Helmand, near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, U.S. authorities said on Saturday.

The area said to have been controlled by Osmani has been the scene of countless attacks against Canadian soldiers and other coalition forces since U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime in late 2001 for hosting bin Laden and other top al-Qaeda officials.

Taliban officials originally denied that Osmani had died.

However, on Wednesday, an unnamed Taliban commander told the Reuters news agency that Osmani was indeed one of the three people killed in the air strike.

In a telephone interview, the commander told a Pakistan-based reporter that Taliban leaders had confirmed the death on the day it happened but warned members of the insurgent militia not to discuss it publicly.

There has been no other sign of acknowledgment from the Taliban.

Osmani, regarded as one of three top associates of Omar, is the highest-ranking Talibanleader thatthe coalition has claimed to have killed or captured since theadministrationwas ousted in late 2001.

He was believed to have played a role in some of the most high-profile excesses of the Taliban's ultra-conservative rule in Afghanistan, including the destruction of the ancient Buddha statues in Bamiyan and the trial of Christian aid workers in 2001.