Monday, February 15, 2010

The top military commander of the Taleban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, has been captured in Karachi in a secret raid by Pakistani and US intelligence forces, according to a report. Citing US government officials, the New York Times newspaper said Mr Baradar, described as the most significant Taleban figure captured since the start of the Afghanistan war, had been in Pakistani custody for several days and was being interrogated by Pakistani and US intelligence, after he was captured in Pakistan last week. The White House and CIA declined comment on the report and the Pentagon also had no comment. The newspaper reported that officials said the operation to capture Mr Baradar was conducted by Pakistan's military spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, which was accompanied by CIA operatives. According to the report US officials had described Mr Baradar as ranking second in influence in the Taleban only to Mullah Muhammad Omar, and that he was a close associate of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden before the September 11 terror attacks. The newspaper said it was not clear if Mr Baradar was talking to authorities, but it quoted the officials as saying his capture could lead to other senior Taleban officials. The officials voiced hope he would provide the location of Mullah Omar. If confirmed, Mr Baradar's arrest would be a major setback for the Taleban. A spokesman for the Taleban in Afghanistan told The Associated Press that Mr Baradar was still free, though he did not provide any evidence. "We totally deny this rumour. He has not been arrested," Zabiullah Mujahid told the AP by telephone. "The Taleban are having success with our jihad. It is to try to demoralise the Taleban who are on jihad in Marjah and all of Afghanistan." US Marines are currently leading Operation Moshtarak, one of NATO's biggest offensives against Taleban Islamic militants in Afghanistan. The offensive in Marjah involves 15,000 US, British and Afghan troops. It is the biggest joint operation since the 2001 invasion that ousted the Taleban. The troops are fighting over an area of less than 100 square miles, with a population of 80,000. The assault is the first test of US President Barack Obama's plan to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, where the Taleban has made a steady comeback since a US-led invasion ousted it in 2001. The newspaper said it had learned of the operation last Thursday, but delayed reporting it after a request by White House officials who said disclosing it would end a very successful intelligence push. The paper said it was now publishing the report because White House officials acknowledged that news of the capture was becoming broadly known in the region. US officials were quoted as saying that in addition to the Taleban's military operations, Mr Baradar ran the group's leadership council, often called the Quetta Shura.



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