Senior Taliban leader killed in US airstrike

A US airstrike in southern Afghanistan hit a top Taliban military commander, the highest-ranking figure from the hardline militia to be killed since 2001, according to the US military. A Taliban spokesman disputed the claim. Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani was regarded as one of three top associates of Taliban leader Mullah Omar. His death could hinder the militia's plans for an expected offensive early next year that would extend the surge in violence seen in Afghanistan in 2006. Osmani was killed Tuesday by a US airstrike while traveling by vehicle in a deserted area in the southern province of Helmand, the US military said. Two associates also were killed, it said.