ISLAMABAD, July 19 (Xinhuanet) -- Top Taliban leader Mulla Mohammad Kabir and at least four of his senior colleagues have been arrested in a secretive operation in Nowshera district in Pakistan's North West Frontier province.
However, official confirmation is not available, The News reported Tuesday.
Government functionaries were tight-lipped as to the circumstances of these arrests. Also, the identities of those arrested were not revealed. Once confirmed, these would be the most significant arrests of Taliban leaders in Pakistan to date.
However, information pierced together from various sources showed that the arrests took place from Akora Khattak and Bab-i-Jadeed villages sited in different parts of Nowshera. An importantreligious leader, who requested anonymity, confirmed the arrest ofMulla Kabir and the other Taliban figures. Police sources in Nowshera also said they had heard about the arrests.
Mulla Kabir was governor of the eastern Nangarhar province whenthe Taliban government fell following the US invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001. Kabir and Osama bin Laden retreated fromJalalabad, capital of Nangarhar province, around the same time in late November or early December in 2001 and took refuge in Tora Bora mountain range.
Others arrested with Mulla Kabir include Mulla Abdul Qadeer, who held a senior position in the Taliban movement and was responsible for recruiting fighters and arranging supplies for Taliban troops when they were in power. For a while, he also ran the Taliban office in Peshawar. After the fall of Taliban regime, he too went underground to evade arrest.
One Mulla Abdul Haq, who worked for sometime in Mulla Omar's Kandahar office, was also arrested. He is being identified as a deputy to Mulla Omar, but it doesn't appear to be the case. However, he remained close to Mulla Omar while working for him in the Taliban spiritual capital of Kandahar.
Mulla Kabir's younger brother Mulla Abdul Aziz was also stated to be among those who were apprehended. He served as an assistant to Mulla Kabir when the latter was governor of Nangarhar. The identity of the fifth Taliban figure picked up from Nowshera district isn't known.
Sources were quoted as saying Mulla Kabir was arrested three days ago but the news was kept secret. Agents from different intelligence agencies were involved in the raids that netted the Taliban figures. They recovered a wealth of material from the compound including computer discs and papers and vehicles. A local landlord Iftikhar, who too was arrested, owned the compound.
Members of the intelligence agencies then raided an Afghan refugee camp to nab the remaining Taliban figures. This raid reportedly took place Sunday night. The sources said the Taliban leaders got trapped because they had been talking on satellite phones and receiving visitors.
Meanwhile, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sheikh Rashid Ahmad did not confirm the arrest of Mulla Muhammad Kabir. In an interview with private Geo TV late Monday night, he said as a chief government spokesman he did not have any information aboutthe arrest or otherwise of Mulla Muhammad Kabir.
Pakistan has arrested more than 700 Taliban and al-Qaeda members since Taliban was ousted from power in 2001. It has deployed more than 70,000 troops to the tribal areas on the borderwith Afghanistan in the fight against remnants of Taliban. Enditem