By Hamid Shalizi and Jibran Ahmad
KABUL/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - A NATO air strike in eastern Afghanistan has killed a commander of the Pakistani Taliban, both NATO and the Taliban said on Saturday.
Both sides identified the dead commander as Mullah Dadullah and said several of his comrades were also killed in the attack on Friday.
A NATO statement did not say who carried out the assault but the alliance is alone in having the air power to conduct such an operation. It said Dadullah's deputy, Shakir, was also killed.
"Dadullah, also known as Jamal, was responsible for the movement of fighters and weapons, as well as attacks against Afghan and coalition forces," the statement said.
It said Afghan and coalition forces backing the Kabul government had "conducted a post-strike assessment" and found that there had been no civilian casualties or damage to civilian property.
Pakistani Taliban officials, as well as Pakistani intelligence officials said Dadullah had been killed in a house in eastern Konar province, along with 12 bodyguards. They said he was the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan's Bajaur tribal agency, near the border with Afghanistan.
Dadullah, in his 40s, replaced Maulvi Faqir Mohammad last year after Mohammad told the media that the Taliban were holding peace talks with the government.
The Pakistani Taliban, committed to the same Islamist principles as the Taliban ousted from power in Kabul in 2001, replaced Mohammad with Dadullah to undercut the secret negotiations, Taliban commanders say.
"Mullah Dadullah was staying at a house in Sheegal Darra, along with his 12 bodyguards, when they came under attack. All of them were killed on the spot," said one of the Pakistani Taliban commanders.
Some Pakistani Taliban fighters and commanders were forced to flee into Afghanistan after the Pakistani army launched a series of offensives against them in 2008 and 2009.
But the group still frequently carries out cross-border raids on Pakistani armed forces. In June, the Pakistani Taliban said they beheaded 17 Pakistani soldiers in a cross-border raid.
The United States has in recent weeks stepped up drone attacks aimed at militants in areas of northwest Pakistan largely outside government control despite protests by Pakistani politicians.
Many Pakistanis say the drones infringe on national sovereignty and some activists have raised concerns over civilian deaths. Drone attacks on Friday killed at least 16 people in northwest Pakistan.
(Additional reporting by Saud Mehsud in DERA ISMAIL KHAN: writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Ron Popeski)
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