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US, Pakistan capture Taliban's top commander: report

The United States and Pakistani intelligence forces captured the Taliban's top military commander in a secret joint operation in Karachi, the online edition of The New York Times said late on Monday.

world Updated: Feb 16, 2010 11:18 IST

The United States and Pakistani intelligence forces captured the Taliban's top military commander in a secret joint operation in Karachi, the online edition of The New York Times said late on Monday.

Billed as the most significant Taliban figure since the start of the US-led war in Afghanistan eight years ago and second only to Taliban founder Mohammad Omar, Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was captured several days ago and is currently in Pakistani custody with US officials taking part in his interrogation.

Baradar, an Afghani, was a close associate of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden before the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

US officials believe he is in charge of the Taliban's military operations and the Taliban's leadership council.

The unnamed US officials told the daily they hoped his capture will lead to other senior Taliban officials.

They said the Pakistanis were in charge of Baradar's interrogation, but that Americans were also involved.

The Times said it learned of Baradar's capture on Thursday, but delayed reporting it at the White House's request for fear it would hamper a successful intelligence gathering effort.

The newspaper published the story after US officials acknowledged Baradar's capture was becoming widely known in the region.

The details of Baradar's capture were not clear, but it was carried out by Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives, the daily said.

The joint operation suggests a new level of cooperation from Pakistan's leaders, who have been reluctant to give full support to US anti-Taliban efforts.

Baradar's capture comes in the middle of a major US, NATO and Afghan troop offensive on a Taliban stronghold in opium-rich Marjah, Afghanistan, one of the biggest military operations since the 2001 US-led invasion brought down the Taliban regime.

US Marines are leading the 15,000-strong, ground and air offensive dubbed Operation Mushtarak ("Together" in Dari), which US military reported is making slow progress.

President Barack Obama has ordered the deployment of more than 50,000 US troops to Afghanistan since taking office in January 2009, with the final reinforcements due to bring to 150,000 the total number of US and NATO-led troops in the country by August.

Western commanders say Mushtarak is a show of force designed to implement counter-insurgency tactics drawn up by the top commander US General Stanley McChrystal to push out militants and pave the way for Afghan sovereignty.

Afghan officials, who have their troops fighting side-by-side with the foreign troops for the first time, say they have a government-in-waiting ready to sweep in and prevent the return of the Taliban in the southeastern region.