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A Taliban commander thought responsible for the kidnapping of an Italian journalist last March has been killed in an attack in southwestern Afghanistan, military officials say.

Mullah Ikhalas has been identified as one of the militants killed in a Dec. 2 strike in the Musa Qaleh district of Helmand province, according to a news release issued by Combined Joint Task Force-82.

Daniele Mastrogiacomo, a journalist with La Repubblica newspaper, was kidnapped March 5 but released two weeks later after the Afghan government admitted making a deal with his Taliban abductors. Italian news reports said he was freed after five Taliban militants were released from prison.

Mastrogiacomo’s driver and his interpreter were executed by Taliban insurgents.

Ikhalas also is blamed for mortar attacks on coalition bases and several attacks by explosives.

Coalition forces targeted a vehicle carrying Ikhalas and three others on Dec. 2 during operations, officials said. Aircraft destroyed the vehicle and killed the passengers with a precision bomb, the military said.

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