The Taliban's new southern commander said the militia beheaded an Afghan health worker and would kill one of their other hostages every day until the body of the former Taliban commander was handed over.
In other developments, a gun battle and airstrikes killed two dozen Taliban fighters, while more than 20 suspected militants drowned when Afghan forces sank their boat as they crossed a river, officials said on Tuesday.
A man claiming to be Mansoor Dadullah, the brother of slain commander Mullah Dadullah, said that the militants had four captive health workers and 15 captive Afghan soldiers and that one would die every day until Mullah Dadullah's body was returned to his relatives.
"We are giving a warning to the government to hand over the body of [Mullah] Dadullah," the man said by satellite phone on Tuesday. "Today we beheaded one of the doctors and we will behead the others as well."
Mansoor Dadullah also said he had received a letter from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden congratulating him for taking over his brother's position.
"I hope that you will carry out the same kind of jihad that Mullah Dadullah did," Mansoor Dadullah quoted the letter as saying.
Mansoor Dadullah claimed the body of his brother -- a brutal Taliban commander -- had been flown to the US.
Staff Sergeant April Lapetoda, a spokeswoman for the US military, said she had no knowledge of that taking place.
Meanwhile, two soldiers with the NATO military force in southern Afghanistan were killed in clashes with militants yesterday, the alliance's International Security Assistance Force said.
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