Merajuddin Pattan, governor of Afghanistan's Ghazni province, says Afghan security forces killed Mullah Mateen, the Taleban commander responsible for the kidnapping in July of twenty-three South Korean Christian aid workers:
"Our police forces surrounded the area and the leader of the terrorist group who had kidnapped the Koreans was killed along with sixteen others."
In the gun battle in which Mateen and other insurgents were killed, Afghan security forces were supported by U-S-led coalition forces. Zemarai Bashary, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Interior Ministry, said Mullah Mateen was a "key person behind the kidnapping of the [South] Koreans." The Taleban murdered two of the hostages before releasing the others in August.
Afghan security forces and their coalition allies are stepping up the pressure on Taleban insurgents. More than forty insurgents were killed in fighting with U-S-led coalition troops in southern Helmand and northeastern Nuristan provinces. In Kandahar province, over a dozen insurgents were killed in a failed attack on Afghan army and coalition forces north of the village of Kharwari Chineh. No Afghan or coalition soldiers or Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the five-hour battle.
President George W. Bush said the U.S. and its coalition allies are on the offensive against terrorists in Afghanistan:
"You might remember it was last winter that people were speculating about the Taleban spring offensive, and about how the Taleban had regrouped and were going to go on the attack inside Afghanistan. There was a spring offensive, all right – it was conducted by U.S., NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] and equally important, Afghan troops."
"There is still a fight going on," said President Bush "and more Afghans are stepping up to serve."