ISLAMABAD: Security forces captured the Pakistani Taliban's top spokesman in an operation near the Afghan border, a government official said yesterday, dealing another blow to the militants following the reported killing of their leader earlier this month.
The seizure of Maulvi Umar follows government claims of disarray in the Taliban leadership over who should replace their chief, Baitullah Mehsud, who is believed to have been killed in a CIA missile strike on August 5.
Umar was captured along with two associates in a village in the Mohmand tribal region on Monday night, local time, while he was travelling in a car to South Waziristan, a Taliban stronghold, said Javed Khan, a local government administrator.
"Maulvi Umar is in our custody, and he is being questioned," Mr Khan said.
Earlier, three intelligence officials said local tribal elders assisted troops in locating Umar in the village of Khawazeo. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Umar's arrest would probably be publicly announced overnight.
As the official spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the umbrella organisation formed in 2007 for various regional and tribal militant movements, Umar frequently called journalists to claim responsibility for terrorist attacks in Pakistan.
He was known to be close to Mehsud.
Last week, he called the Associated Press to insist Mehsud was still alive and to deny reports of a power struggle within the Pakistani Taliban's disparate factions over who would succeed him.
Umar's capture was the second arrest of a senior Taliban figure in 24 hours.
On Monday night, police said they had arrested a militant commander and close Mehsud aide, who was being treated in a private hospital in Islamabad, the capital.
Militant commander Qari Saifullah, who is reportedly linked to al-Qa'ida, told police he had been wounded in a US missile strike in South Waziristan, said two police officials.
It was unclear whether it was the same strike believed to have killed Mehsud. Read more here ...
Source: The Australian