The body of the one-legged, ruthless Taliban military commander, Mullah Dadullah, was turned over to the Taliban in exchange for the release of four hostages, said Shahbuddin Atal, who claims to speak on behalf of the militant group.
The spokesman said the Taliban freed four Afghan health ministry workers, who they had kidnapped along with a fifth medical worker at the end of March after the workers had handed out vaccines to refugees.
Atal said Dadullah’s body had already been buried in a Kandahar graveyard by his family.
A spokesman for the health ministry, Dr. Abdullah Fahim, confirmed the four men had returned safely to a regional health office in Kandahar province. Musa, one of the freed hostages, told the Associated Press, "This morning the Taliban blindfolded us and put us in a vehicle…in Gereshk they opened our eyes and told us to go since our relatives were waiting."
The health ministry said they had no word on the fifth hostage, but Taliban spokesman Atal told the Associated Press the beheaded body of the fifth health worker could be retrieved by his family in Helmand province. He said the Taliban killed him earlier this week after the government had failed to release Dadullah’s body.
Mullah Dadullah was killed when U.S. forces launched a helicopter assault on his hiding place in Helmand province in mid-May. The much-feared, military mastermind of the Taliban had been tracked from Quetta, Pakistan, across the border into Afghanistan, according to U.S. military officials.
Just 36 hours before his death, in his last interview, Dadullah declared what would be his final threat. "We will be executing attacks in Britain and the U.S. to demonstrate our sincerity," he told an Afghan interviewer, "and to destroy their cities as they have destroyed our cities."
He also said he was training American and British citizens to carry out suicide missions in their home countries, a claim recent U.S. intelligence reports confirmed.
Mullah Dadullah also confirmed the Taliban’s close ties to al Qaeda, "We and al Qaeda are as one. If we are preparing attacks, then it is likewise the work of al Qaeda." Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team?