Taliban leader dies after firefight

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The Independent Online

A feared Taliban commander known for beheading opponents died in custody yesterday, from wounds sustained during a fierce firefight with Pakistani security forces last week.

Sher Muhammad Qasab died after being wounded in a gun battle in Swat Valley. Qasab's three sons were killed when he was captured.

Qasab is an Urdu word meaning "butcher". He was given the title because of his ruthlessness towards enemies. The arrest of Qasab – who had a $120,000 (£74,000) bounty on his head – was the third in Pakistan's list of the 10 most wanted Swat militants. Qasab allegedly decapitated many Pakistani troops in Swat when the Taliban was in control.

The Pakistan Taliban has been on the run since being cleared from the scenic valley, once a tourist hotspot, and surrounding areas in July after the military launched a major offensive to retake the region in April.

The military announced yesterday that security forces killed eight militants in search operations throughout Swat since Saturday. Twenty-three insurgents were also apprehended and another 22 surrendered, it said in a statement. One of the militants killed was a Taliban commander identified as Chamtu Khan, it said.

A Pakistani patrol also killed 10 Taliban attempting to infiltrate Swat Valley's main city of Mingora on Thursday.

The army offensive against Taliban fighters in Swat has killed more than 1,800 alleged militants, according to the military. It says 330 Pakistani troops also died in operations in the valley.

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