From: Reuters
Published February 11, 2008 07:41 AM

Senior Taliban commander caught in Pakistan

By Gul Yousufzai

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani security forces wounded and captured a prominent Taliban commander on Monday near the border area with Afghanistan, Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz said.

Mullah Mansour Dadullah took over as commander of Taliban forces in the southern Afghan province of Helmand after his brother, Mullah Dadullah, was killed by British forces in May.

"We have captured Mansour Dadullah along with five other people in Baluchistan," Nawaz told Reuters, referring to a southwestern province bordering Afghanistan..

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A military statement said the Taliban commander was caught after an exchange of fire with paramilitary troops. He was trying to cross into Pakistan at Gaddal Post in Qilla Saifullah, a town in Baluchistan's Zhob district.

"Initial information reveals that Mullah Mansour Dadullah is injured and has been arrested while trying to enter into Pakistan."

Earlier, intelligence officials in that region said Dadullah had been cornered in a house.

Mansour Dadullah had been involved in negotiations aimed at bringing him and hundreds of his fighters into the Afghan government reconciliation process, Kabul-based diplomats said.

But the prospective deal was scuppered when Afghan President Hamid Karzai expelled two European diplomats involved in the negotiations at the end of last year, saying he had not been informed of the talks.

Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar then dismissed Mansour Dadullah from his command for insubordination, a Taliban spokesman said, a move seen as retaliation for negotiating with foreigners. Dadullah had denied he was dismissed, though Taliban spokesmen confirmed it.

The arrest came days after a senior U.S. official said that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar were operating from Pakistan.

The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mullah Omar and other commanders were directing the insurgency in Afghanistan from Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan.

Pakistan has rejected the charges.

Afghan authorities have long said al Qaeda and Taliban leaders receive refuge in Pakistan's lawless tribal regions, souring relations between the two Muslim neighbors.

The two countries agreed last August to work more closely to fight the joint militant threat and ties have improved.

Many al Qaeda and Taliban militants fled to the Pakistani tribal region after U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban militia's government in late 2001.

Pakistani forces have carried out operations to clear the border area of militants and hundreds of people, including army troops, have been killed in clashes with insurgents.

In January, a suspected U.S. missile attack killed top al Qaeda commander Abul Laith al-Libi in Pakistan's tribal region of North Waziristan.

(Additional reporting by Saeed Ali Achakzai and Jonathan Hemming in Kabul; writing by Augustine Anthony)

(Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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