KUNDUZ  -   A Taliban key commander Mullah Mansoor, the military operational chief of the Taliban outfit, was among 21 armed insurgents who have been killed in northern Afghanistan’s Kunduz province, an army spokesman in the northern region Ghulam Hazrat Karimi said Monday.

“Mullah Mansoor, the military operational chief of Taliban in Kunduz province and deputy to shadow district governor of Imam Sahib district are among 21 rebels who have been killed in crackdown against Taliban since Sunday night,” Karimi told Xinhua.

About 30 more militants have been injured and the Taliban fighters have been expelled from several villages in Imam Sahib district over the past several hours, the official asserted without commenting on security forces casualties.

Meanwhile, Mahboubullah Sayedi, the governor of Imam Sahib district has confirmed that three security forces had been killed and six others injured since the clash erupted in the district late on Sunday. However, villagers have reported killing four civilians including women and children and injuring five others due to the ongoing fighting in Imam Sahib district of Kunduz province. Taliban militants haven’t commented.

US general wounded in last week’s Afghan insider attack

A US general was shot and wounded in a Taliban-claimed attack on a high-level security meeting last week that killed a powerful Afghan police chief, Nato’s mission in Afghanistan said Monday.

Brigadier General Jeffrey Smiley was among 13 wounded when a gunman wearing an Afghan security forces uniform opened fire on the gathering that included General Scott Miller - the top US and Nato commander in Afghanistan - in the southern city of Kandahar.

Miller was unhurt in the shooting inside the heavily fortified Kandahar provincial governor’s compound that Nato’s Resolute Support described as an “Afghan-on-Afghan incident”.

A Nato service member was killed in Afghanistan’s western province of Herat in an apparent insider attack, the Resolute Support mission said in a statement on Monday. “A Resolute Support service member was killed in Herat province,” the statement said. “Two other service members were wounded in incident.”

General Abdul Raziq, an anti-Taliban strongman credited with keeping a lid on the insurgency in the south, was killed along with the provincial intelligence chief and an Afghan journalist. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the brazen attack, saying Miller and Raziq were the targets. But American officials denied the US general was a target.

Smiley suffered non-life threatening gunshot wounds and was “in Germany receiving further treatment”, Resolute Support confirmed. The general arrived in Afghanistan in August to head a Resolute Support mission called “Train, Advise, Assist and Command - South” based in Kandahar.

In the incident’s wake Tadeen Khan - a brother of Raziq and a member of the Afghan security forces - has been appointed acting provincial police chief, interior ministry deputy spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told AFP. Rumours on Afghan social media networks that Resolute Support carried out the attack on Raziq were dismissed by Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Monday, who blamed “the enemies of the Afghan people and their regional supporters” for the gossip.

“Such rumours are justifying the enemies’ atrocities,” Abdullah - Afghanistan’s equivalent of prime minister - said in comments at a regular ministerial meeting that were broadcast on Afghan television.

That the Taliban could mount a deadly insider assault in such a secure location has rattled Afghanistan, a country long used to high-profile targeted killings and violence. It was also an unusual incident for the US military, whose generals seldom face attack and are rarely wounded.

Parliamentary elections held across Afghanistan over the weekend were postponed in Kandahar for at least a week as the government scrambles to secure the province. Fifteen suspects have been arrested over the shooting so far, national intelligence chief Masoom Estanekzai told reporters in Kandahar on Monday. The shooter, who was from the southeastern province of Ghazni, had trained in Taliban camps in Pakistan and used a fake national identification document to get a job on the governor’s security team, Estanekzai said.

The attack was seen as a major coup for the insurgents and threatens to torpedo peace talks and destabilise the south, which is the Taliban’s birthplace. The Taliban, which controls or contests swathes of the war-torn country, has made significant territorial gains and threatened provincial capitals in recent months.

The increased aggression had been seen as an attempt by the group to strengthen its negotiating position in talks with the United States to end the 17-year war. Taliban representatives have met with US officials at least twice in Qatar in recent months, most recently on October 12 with newly appointed US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, raising hopes for peace. But analysts said Thursday’s attack may have jeopardised those tentative efforts.