A senior Taliban commander has been killed in an air raid in northern Afghanistan, the armed group said on Monday.

Mullah Abdul Salam Akhund, who oversaw a Taliban offensive that briefly seized Kunduz city in 2015, had previously been reported dead several times by Afghan officials.

Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman, confirmed Akhund's death in a statement blaming the United States.

Akhund was one of three fighters killed in an air raid by an unmanned aircraft in the Kunduz province, a senior Taliban official in the province told the Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity.

"He was on a journey a few days ago and stopped at a house at Dasht-e-Archi town [in Kunduz] when the drone fired missiles," the official said.

The raid killed Akhund and eight other Taliban members, Sher Aziz Kamawal, a senior police commander in northern Afghanistan, said.

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A US military spokesman said an American jet had carried out a bombing raid in the city on Sunday, but the command did "not have confirmation of the results".

Taliban gains in the Helmand and Uruzgan regions, where they also threaten provincial capitals, have underlined the group's growing strength and exposed weaknesses in the government.

The group maintains that its fight is against foreign military forces and the foreign-backed government, not ordinary Afghans.

On Sunday, its leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, urged Afghans to plant more trees in a statement, calling on civilians and fighters to "plant one or several fruit or non-fruit trees for the beautification of Earth and the benefit of almighty God's creations".

The message, carried on official Taliban outlets, was a shift from the usual fiery rhetoric against the Afghan government and NATO forces.


Source: News agencies