US hands over key Taliban commander to Pakistan

 The US military in Afghanistan today said that a top militant commander and No 2 to former Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, has been handed over to Pakistan along with two other militants.

PTI| Last Updated: Dec 07, 2014, 23:23 PM IST

Peshawar: The US military in Afghanistan today said that a top militant commander and No 2 to former Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, has been handed over to Pakistan along with two other militants.

The US statement did not identify the detainees. But a Pakistani security official said one of them was Latif Mehsud, a close aide to the former chief of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Hakimullah Mehsud.

"Acting on behalf of the United States government, we transferred custody of three Pakistanis held in US custody in Afghanistan, to Pakistan," US Forces-Afghanistan said in a statement in Kabul.

"This followed consultations between the US and Pakistan and after receiving appropriate assurances", it added.

Latif, who was in Afghan and NATO troops' custody for some time, was handed over yesterday along with his two guards and a broker, the Dawn reported citing official sources.

He along with his aides were arrested on Pak-Afghan border by the Afghan National Army when he was crossing the border allegedly to buy weapons.

The militants were then snatched by NATO troops from the Afghan National Army, the report said.

After being held by the Afghan and NATO troops for some time, Latif was handed over to Pakistani authorities after the recent visit of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to Pakistan.

The Pakistani authorities had been demanding the return of the arrested TTP commanders. The other two militants handed over to Pakistan have been identified as Jafar and Aziz.

Latif was a close confidante of then Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, who died in a US drone attack aged 34.

Hakimullah was one of the most notorious leaders to emerge from Pakistan's cauldron of militancy in the past decade.

He joined a Taliban outfit led by his fellow tribesman, Baitullah Mehsud, which was later formalised as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Hakimullah sprang to prominence in 2007 with the kidnap of at least 200 Pakistani soldiers in South Waziristan.