Washington: Fearing that Taliban supreme Mullah Omar might be targeted by US drones, Pakistan`s ISI has helped him to flee from the border town of Quetta to the mega port city of Karachi, where he has established a new Shura council.
One-eyed leader of the Afghan Taliban recently found refuge from potential US attacks in Karachi with Pakistan`s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) assistance, the Washington Times reported quoting US intelligence officials.
"Mullah Omar travelled to Karachi last month after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. He inaugurated a new senior leadership council in Karachi, a city that so far has escaped US and Pakistani counter-terrorism campaigns," the officials said.
The paper said the ISI helped Mullah Omar move from Quetta, where they felt he was exposed to attacks by unmanned US drones.
"The development reinforces suspicions that the ISI, which helped create the Taliban in the 1990s to expand Pakistani influence in Afghanistan, is working against US interests in Afghanistan as the Obama administration prepares to send more US troops to fight there," the daily said.
Bruce Riedel, a CIA veteran and analyst on al Qaeda and the Taliban, confirmed that Mullah Omar had been spotted in Karachi recently, the daily said. "Some sources claim the ISI decided to move him further from the battlefield to keep him safe" from US drone attacks, Riedel was quoted as saying.
"There are huge madrassas in Karachi where Mullah Omar could easily be kept," he said.
Riedel noted that there had been few suicide bombings in Karachi, which he attributed to the Taliban and al Qaeda not wanting to "foul their own nest".
At the same time, the daily said so far there has been no indication that the top al Qaeda leadership too had moved to Karachi.
Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri are still thought to be in the tribal region of Pakistan on Afghanistan`s border, he said.
However, the newspaper said according to intelligence officials, other mid-level al Qaeda operatives who facilitate the travel and training of foreign fighters have moved to the Karachi metropolitan area, which with 18 million people is Pakistan`s most populous city.
"One reason, [al Qaeda] and Taliban leaders are relocating to Karachi is because they believe US drones do not strike there," a official was quoted as saying adding that it is a densely populated urban area.