Center for Strategic Communication

Qari Dawat, a Taliban commander in the northeastern Afghan province of Kunar who has been hunted by US forces for years and has vowed to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden, is reported to have been killed in a US airstrike two days ago.

Dawat and three other commanders were killed by US drones in an attack in the district of Pech (also known as Manogai) early on the morning of Oct. 21, the district governor told The Afghanistan Times. The Taliban have not confirmed Dawat’s death.

US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal said they were aware of the reports of Dawat’s death, but would neither confirm nor deny that he had been killed.

Dawat, whose real name is Haji Mohammad Dawran Safi, is a senior Taliban leader in Pech. He has been hunted by the US military for more than four years.

The first report that Dawat was targeted appeared in November 2009. The US launched an airstrike in an effort to kill him, and claimed that four Taliban fighters were killed in the strike. Dawat “is known for attacking innocent civilians in the Kunar region, as well as international forces and bases,” the US military noted in a press release on Nov. 27, 2009, one day after the strike, without naming him.

Afghan officials confirmed that Dawat was the target of the 2009 airstrike, and said he survived. A relative of the targeted commander said Dawat survived the attack but that his wife, two children, and two neighbors were killed.

Dawat was responsible for the kidnapping of Paul Refsdal, a Norwegian journalist, on Nov. 5, 2009. Refsdal was released just six days later, after converting to Islam. [See LWJ report, Taliban commander behind reporter’s kidnapping targeted in Kunar, and Threat Matrix report, Embedded with the Taliban in Kunar, for more information.]

Dawat resurfaced in May 2011 after the death of al Qaeda emir Osama bin Laden. He said that he would “avenge” the terrorist leader and “follow in his footsteps.”

“We created special units for avenging the martyrdom of Sheikh Osama bin Laden,” he told Al Jazeera. “We will avenge him and follow in his footsteps, and we will maintain the momentum of the jihad against foreign and agent forces.”

In April 2012, Dawat again appeared in the media. This time, he said that dismantling and infiltrating the Afghan Army and police forces is the top “priority” of the Taliban.