Pakistani Army confirms arrest of Taliban commander
Last Updated: Wednesday, February 17, 2010, 16:03
  
Islamabad: The Pakistani military confirmed on Wednesday that the Afghan Taliban's top military commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, had been captured.

U.S. and Pakistani officials who declined to be identified said on Tuesday Baradar had been captured in the Pakistani city of Karachi in a raid by Pakistani and U.S. agents.

"At the conclusion of detailed identification procedure, it has been confirmed that one of the persons arrested happens to be Mullah Baradar," the military said.

It declined to say where he had been caught or to give other details, citing security reasons.

The capture came as U.S. forces spearhead one of NATO's biggest offensives against the Taliban in Afghanistan in an early test of U.S. President Barack Obama's troop surge policy.

U.S. officials and analysts said it was too soon to tell whether Pakistan's cooperation against Baradar would be extended to other top militants on the U.S. hit list.

The arrest followed months of behind-the-scenes prodding by U.S. officials who saw inaction by Islamabad as a major threat to their Afghan war strategy.

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik had on Tuesday declined to confirm Baradar's capture, saying a large number of people had fled operations by NATO forces in Afghanistan to Pakistan and many had been picked up.

He denied that there had been any joint operation by Pakistani and U.S. agents.

Though nuclear-armed Pakistan is a U.S. ally, anti-U.S. sentiment runs high and many people have long been suspicious of the U.S.-led campaign against militancy and oppose any U.S. security operations in Pakistan.

"He is with us"

A Pakistani intelligence official said security agents had been searching for Baradar in the southwestern city of Quetta, where the United States says a Taliban leadership council is based.

"Sensing that he might be arrested, he somehow slipped out of Quetta and into Karachi, maybe in disguise. That's where we arrested him, about four days back," said the official, who declined to be identified.

"He is with us and is being interrogated."

Asked if the United States was involved in the questioning, he said: "Yes of course. We have that sort of cooperation with them."

Baradar's arrest comes amid a renewed drive for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Asked if the Taliban commander could help with any reconciliation process, the Pakistani agent said: "It might lead to that eventually ... Anything is possible but so far we have not come to that."

PTI


First Published: Wednesday, February 17, 2010, 16:03


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