A senior Taliban commander who was also the shadow governor for the northern province of Kunduz was killed along with at least two advisors by a NATO airstrike on Monday, officials said.

Mullah Yar Mohammad, who was known as Mullah Noor Mohammad in the northern region, was killed on Monday morning in Archi district nearly 30 kilometres northeast of Kunduz city, provincial governor Mohammad Omar said.

Four other men accompanying the commander were also killed in the air raid, Mr. Omar said.

“Yar Mohammad, who is originally from Helmand province, was recently appointed as Taliban governor for Kunduz province,” he said.

A NATO statement earlier said that a senior Taliban commander was driving with two advisors through a desert “when they were struck by precision air fire, killing all three.” “The senior Taliban commander was involved in all aspects of military operations in Kunduz province,” it said, adding, “He was responsible for setting target priorities, weapons distribution and directing attacks against coalition and Afghan forces.” Kunduz and neighbouring Baghlan province, the main Taliban hub in the northern region, have witnessed fierce clashes between Taliban and Afghan and NATO-led troops.

Seven German soldiers were killed and more than a dozen others were injured in the past month in the two provinces. Around 4,500 German troops are stationed in northern region.

The NATO—led International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) said in a separate statement on Monday that eight Taliban fighters surrendered in Baghlan province on Saturday.

The militants surrendered in the same area where four German soldiers were killed in a Taliban attack on April 15 .

An ongoing NATO offensive is the largest so far in the northern region, which was regarded as the most peaceful region until three years ago. Around 1,000 Afghan combat troops, supported by ISAF troops from Germany, the United States, Sweden, Finland, Croatia and Belgium are taking part in the operation.

Afghan officials have warned of a much larger operation in Kunduz and Baghlan provinces in coming months unless the Taliban fighters in the region lay down their arms.

Kunduz governor Mohammad Omar said last week that 1,200 additional US troops are set to be deployed to his province, while another 3,000 US forces would be stationed in Balkh province by summer.

The deployment would be part of the 30,000 additional US troops that were ordered by US President Barack Obama in December. The total number of NATO troops is set to rise to 150,000 by autumn.

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