US forces killed over 50 Taliban leaders in a series of strikes against those behind a recent attack in the Helmand provincial capital of Farah, US military and NATO commander General John Nicholson said Wednesday.
After pushing out fighters in Farah, Afghan and US forces continued to pursue them, Nicholson told reporters at the Pentagon via video link.
Under surveillance by the Marines, the Taliban fighters returned to their Helmand stronghold, a center for poppy cultivation.
On May 24, they were spotted in a known Taliban command center in Musa Qala.
"What it looks like is it was a group of commanders, meeting in part to discuss the operation in Farah that many of them had just participated in," said General Nicholson.
"And they obviously thought they were meeting in relative safety in Musa Qala, but our intelligence was able to identify the group and effectively conduct the strike."
The group was involved in drug trafficking, Nicholson added.
"I would not call it strategic significance, but it definitely has a significant local significance in terms of the fight in Southern Afghanistan," he said.
In a statement, the US command in Afghanistan said the strike resulted in "more than 50 casualties," among them the number two Taliban leader in Helmand, Abdul Manan, and several district governors and local leaders in Kandahar, Kunduz, Herat, Farah, Uruzgan and Helmand provinces.
Afghan security forces patrol, after recapturing control of the city from Taliban militants, in Farah